David Fraser, Poet. Image courtesy ShawTV Nanaimo

Brian Hough
The Navigator

Wordstorm held its first event of 2014 at the newly re-opened Vault Café on Tuesday, January 28.

The monthly event, co-founded in 2007 by Cindy Shantz and David Fraser, combines spoken word, poetry, and prose readings from local writers and performers as well as featured performers from across Canada.

Each event, held on the fourth Tuesday of every month, starts with an open mic component that allows local artists to take the stage. In addition to the open mic, the events are anchored by usually three or four featured performers from across BC and Canada.

According to Board member and local published poet Mary-Anne Moore, funding for the performers usually comes through the League of Poets or the Canadian Writer’s Union. In some cases, the writers are on a book tour with funding from the Canadian Council of Arts. Having applied for and earned official Non-Profit Society status in 2009, they are also in a position to pay featured performers who don’t have access to funding from other sources. This status has also helped pave the way for them to expand into offering other services. For example, low cost workshops with published writers and the Hazelwood Poetry Festival held in August.

They have also been able to work with VIU. When they organized workshops and performances for spoken word artist Sheri-D Wilson and storyteller Ivan E. Coyote, the performances were held at VIU.

Their relationship with VIU is one they wish to develop.

Speaking with multiple Board members and organizers, one thing that comes up quite often is their desire to see more of VIU’s student body out to these events.

While there weren’t any empty seats at the event, there was a surprising lack of student attendees—something they want to change. “We really think there’s a lot of talent at the university and a lot of students who might want to come out and participate,” said Moore. “We want them to know that they are more than welcome to come down and perform.”

Anne Graham Walker, another Board member and local writer (who was also the acting host of the evening) reiterates:

“We really want to do more to reach out and serve the writers at VIU. Right now, we are a predominantly older group of writers, just because we happen to be the ones who started this. But Wordstorm is becoming more of a community resource, and it is really important to us that young people not only come forward and participate in the readings but get involved, learn how a writers’ society like this works, step forward to join the board everything. Something valuable has been built which needs to be shared and eventually passed on.”

Wordstorm’s featured performers have been booked up solidly for most of 2014, including Jude Neale, winner of the Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Prize (Ireland) and The International Poetic Republic Poetry Prize (UK) in February, and two-time Victoria Slam Champion Missy Peters on March 25.

Their next poetry event is February 25, and on March 8 they are holding a special event devoted entirely to spoken word. According to Moore, it will be expected that performers have their work memorized.

For more information, visit wordstorm.ca.

Performers are encouraged to sign up for the open mic at the door.