Every fall, as the Highlands blaze with autumn colour, writers and readers from across the country may be found in the heart of Cape Breton for a three-day celebration of the written word. Here, at the Gaelic College in St. Ann’s Bay, we put aside all pretension for a sincere and wholehearted celebration of the relationship between reader, writer, and literature. Our intimate venues, packed wall to wall with devoted readers, and the lively Cape Breton spirit that suffuses every festival event, bring readers and writers into a uniquely close connection.Year after year, we’ve heard our authors and our audiences say they’ve never had so much fun at a literary event.
Wild, beautiful Cape Breton Island is itself a muse; its limitless vistas of green highlands and grey coast are inspirational. And living on this arresting landscape are a people who know in their bones the value of a story well told. From the Mi’kmaq First Nation, who fished and hunted and told tales on these shores for centuries to the Celtic and Acadian settlers who arrived to mine the coasts and farm the fields, Cape Breton is an ancient home to storytelling and storytellers. This is the land of Alistair Mac Leod and Ashley MacIsaac, where fiddling, step-dancing and bagpiping are as much a way of life as story-telling, the best parties happen in the kitchen, and every stranger is welcomed as a friend.
Though the crowds that fill our events are immense and the authors we host are the heavyweights of Canadian Literature, we have managed to retain the relaxed intimacy of a “small” literary festival. Here writers and readers mingle freely, with no stage or curtain between them. After enjoying an interview or a reading with your favourite author, you may find yourself taking a seat at the same table to share a meal.
The Cabot Trail Writers Festival is a distinctly unstuffy literary experience, with music and laughter freely filling the gaps between readings, workshops, and panel discussions, allowing readers and writers to enjoy one another’s company, kick back and unwind down home in Cape Breton.