The Ryga Arts Festival

Summerland’s Ryga Arts Festival is a multi-day arts festival featuring live music, play readings and artistic workshops, symposiums, and more – all with a connection to – or that are inspired by – internationally performed Canadian playwright, novelist, poet, and Summerland resident George Ryga. Considered by contemporary critics to be Canada’s greatest playwright, George Ryga was born in rural Alberta in 1932 and spent much of his life in Summerland where he died in 1987. The Ryga household was always full of music, discussions, poetry and theatre, and the love of language, learning, and expression – and the Ryga Festival continues that tradition.

Past Festival Highlights

  • A sold-out theatre performance by Juno Award-winning jazz musician Campbell Ryga
  • A solo concert by renowned singer-songwriter Ann Mortifee and her amazing musicians
  • A standing-room-only spoken word event, “Outspoken” featuring poets, storytellers, actors, and raconteurs
  • A series of theatre vignettes that take place in downtown Summerland on a "theatre trail"
  • A life-changing storytelling workshop plus other inspiring activities.
  • An enthralling singing workshop led by inspiring teacher Ann Mortifee.

Artistic Director

Heather Davies

Heather Davies

I am very grateful to be in my fourth year as Artistic Director the Ryga Arts Festival.

The 2020 health crisis has impacted our lives in many ways. Here at the Ryga Arts Festival we are listening to the health guidelines and ensuring that we are taking care of our audiences, artists and art by moving much of our 2020 programming online.

George Ryga, renowned Canadian writer, social activist and Summerland resident, continues to be our inspiration. Throughout his life, George pushed boundaries, exploring both the form and content of his writing in innovative ways. It is with this spirit, the spirit of constant creative exploration, that we are approaching our 2020 festival.

Our passion for celebrating the arts continues through our three veins of programming: words, theatre and music. Join us for author readings, vibrant conversations on wide-ranging themes, workshops to explore and expand your creativity, play readings, music from BC and beyond- and much more- all from the comfort of your own home!

Also, for 2020, we’re adjusting our ticket prices to ensure that you can connect with us; we know you love arts and culture as much as we do. If you are able to donate, it is easy to show your support by contributing financially to the festival through Canada Helps. Every donation made during these uncertain times helps us build resilience and a vision for our future.

Please join oure-newsletterand follow us on your favourite social media platform (@rygafest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for all our news and stories.

And we’ll have more news to share with you, when we announce our 2020 programming in early June!

Thank you for supporting the Ryga Arts Festival. We look forward to seeing you soon

Best wishes, Heather

Canada Helps: .

Ryga Festival Society

A Registered Charitable Society Promoting Arts, Culture, And Education.

The Ryga Festival Society is a registered charitable society. Our purposes are to advance the public’s appreciation of the arts by organizing and staging an annual arts and cultural festival in Summerland, BC, that honours George Ryga; and to advance education by providing instructional seminars, workshops, and other educational events to the public, on the contributions of George Ryga to Canadian culture.

The Society aims to follow Ryga’s inspiration to foster creativity and creative expression in any art form. Most of George Ryga’s plays as well as “The Ecstasy of Rita Joe,” deal with social issues. There was always music, discussion, and a lively exchange of ideas in the Ryga family home, and the Ryga family always welcomed visitors from near and far to their home surrounded by orchards in Summerland. Inspired by this, the Ryga Festival includes storytelling, singing, creative writing, acting, playwriting, and more.

This enduring creative spirit inspired a group of people to create the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature, which is now in its 15th year, open to BC authors, with a book award administered by the BC BookWorld and the Pacific Bookworld News Society.

The Ryga Festival Society celebrates George Ryga in Summerland in much the same way as Stephen Leacock is honoured in Orillia, Ontario, and more recently Alice Munro is commemorated in Wingham, Ontario – small communities celebrating one of their own. We believe that these communities – just like Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake, which host the Shakespeare and Shaw festivals in Ontario – have found a way of combining culture with economic benefits. The Ryga Festival Society hopes to attract many more people to attend our cultural events and be inspired by George Ryga.

Board of Directors

Dan Dinsmore
Cal Meiklejohn
Vice President
Jan Schumacher
Bonnie Nesbitt
Will Eaton
Donna Wong Juliani
Jennifer Cockrall-King
Trina Kushnerik

Advisory Council

Recently we asked a distinguished group of Canadians to form an Advisory Council to the Ryga Festival Society.

Peter Hay
Dorthea Atwater
Ann Mortifee
Victor Davies
Gina Payzant
Don Rubin
Tanya Ryga

We gratefully acknowledge the help and support of all our members in making the Ryga Arts Festival possible.