Ryga Festival Society

The Ryga Festival Society’s mandate is to promote the development of creative and performing arts in Summerland by organizing an annual festival honouring Summerland resident George Ryga (1932-1987) one of Canada's greatest writers. Ryga wrote "The Ecstasy of Rita Joe," which awakened the country to the continuing tragedy of Indigenous Peoples and is perhaps the most important play written in English Canada in the past fifty years. Most of the performers, writers, and artists come from the Okanagan with a few visiting professionals who conduct creative workshops and give talks. For more information about George Ryga and our first Festival last September, please consult www.marginalarts.ca

Spoken Word performances sold out during 2016 FestivalOur Impact Why We Exist

The Society was formed to revive George Ryga's reputation in his home community. In our first year of existence we produced a festival which reached more than ten percent of the population of our town and received glowing reviews. 

This year the renamed Ryga Festival will involve more than sixty volunteers and many grass-roots arts events. We plan to involve the En'owkin Centre and other First Nations artists  to continue the dialogue with First Nations that George Ryga began. 

Our Story What We Do

George Ryga spent his most creative years in Summerland. After his death his former home was used as a retreat for writers and musicians. Following financial difficulties the property was sold in in 2014. The proceeds were disbursed to establish playwriting scholarships at the Banff Arts Centre, and to support the annual George Ryga Book Award for Social Awareness.

A small grant was also given to IndigenEYZE, an indigenous youth empowerment program based in the Similkameen.

The community rallied to preserve Ryga's legacy in Summerland. A permanent plaque and display case became part of the new library opened in October 2016.  Then, on the initiative of Summerland councillor Doug Holmes, the Ryga Festival Society was formed with the idea of celebrating Ryga's works and his continuing cultural influence. The first festival was held September 1-3, 2016, called Marginal Arts Festival because most of Ryga's works championed marginalized people. 

The mandate of our Society is not only to celebrate Summerland's most famous literary figure, George Ryga, but also to follow his inspiration and foster creativity in our region. The Ryga Festival Society intends to celebrate 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.  We have the same mandate to attract cultural tourism to our region and we have already taken a few small steps toward achieving that. 

Leanna Brodie rOur Programs How We Do It

The festival format lets participants share in a variety of creative experiences that may have lasting - even lifetime benefits. We are bringing concert artists, theatre directors, storytellers,and authors to work with our local and regional talent on original works. Our province-wide and national contacts among creative artists who were inspired by George Ryga enable us to bring both up-and-coming and established artists to the festival.

Playwright Leanna Brodie gives a reading at 2016 Festival. What You Can Do

Join us! Become a Ryga Festival Society member for only $5!

Become a volunteer! We need volunteers right now! 

Bring your artistic talent and perform at one of our concerts or informal coffee-house jams.

Listen to a concert, hear a reading, or give yourself a stretch goal and take a workshop! 

Learn about George Ryga by watch one of our videos on Shaw's Youtube channel. 

Make a donation to the Ryga Festival Society and help us fulfil our mission. 


Dorthea Atwater
Secretary, Board of Directors
Charitable Number: 121442396RR0001

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Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 22,300