Children’s storytelling festival goes online

Storyteller Kathie Kompass delights young audiences at a previous Children’s Storytelling Festival   photo: Pat Holloway

By Murray McGregor

The bilingual Ottawa Children’s Storytelling Festival/Festival du conte pour enfants d’Ottawa returns for its 26th year from November 16 to 21 with an online edition that brings together dynamic live presentations and pre-recorded stories that can be accessed on demand.

Ottawa Storytellers, once again in partnership with the Ottawa Public Library, will present 30 storytellers from the capital area and across the country who will share age-appropriate stories in French and English that reflect the diversity of our city. Some performances will be live streamed; others will be recorded so you can enjoy them more than once. Each session will target a particular age group – three to five, six to eight and nine to 12. All will be presented on the Ottawa Public Library website ( Visit the kids section of the library’s website starting November 16 to find the festival’s page. Admission is free!

“I go to the storytelling festival to be enraptured, startled, delighted, scared and filled with laughter,” says festival coordinator Ruth Stewart-Verger. “The stories will bring together children and families across our city and beyond. The listeners and tellers will have different backgrounds – Indigenous, non-Indigenous and immigrant. Their stories bring familiar themes, new ideas and an opportunity for families to bond as they share literary treasures.”

Local storytellers include:

Louise Profeit-LeBlanc, currently of Wakefield, is traditional storyteller and story keeper of the Nacho Nyak Dän First Nation from the Yukon Territories. Louise will share stories of her grandparents, her aunties and her cousins learning to live in harmony with their neighbours (human and animal) in their northern land.

Jacqui du Toit, currently of Ottawa, will bring her larger-than-life presence to the stage, drawing you into her traditional tale from southern Africa in which the tribe’s advisor was wise enough to know that a disaster may turn out to be a good thing.

Mary Wiggin of Ottawa will use her wicked sense of humour and an exquisite sense of language to regale us with tales of strong heroines and sound plots with a twist.

From afar:

Michael Kusagak will share stories of growing up in Nunavut on the northern edge of Hudson’s Bay. Stories of riding in his father’s dog sled, of the smallest dog in the sled team, of living a traditional Inuit lifestyle.

Dolorès Contré Migwans will weave tales in French of her Metis-Odawa roots from Montreal.

Sarah Abu-Sharar of Toronto will recount stories of her father’s family in the Hebron Hills of Palestine and of her mother’s family in Croatia.

The festival is designed to build bonds among families and diverse communities as they listen together to stories from each other’s cultures. Its goal is to make Ottawa’s diverse cultural heritage more visible and accessible while providing families with shared literary touchpoints and encouraging the development of imagination, narrative skills and the love of words.

Murray McGregor is a storyteller and writer/editor, and he was website editor for former councillor Clive Doucet for 10 years.

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