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.

George Ryga

George Ryga

Writer & Playwright

George Ryga, considered by many as Canada’s most important English language playwright, lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987.

Learn More About George Ryga

Artistic Director

Heather Davies

Heather Davies

Heather Davies was appointed artistic director of the Ryga Arts Festival in 2017. Born in Winnipeg, she trained as a dancer, singer, actor and musician. Heather spent 18 years in Britain, studying, acting and directing, including three years as a resident director with the Royal Shakespeare Company. She has directed for several theatres and festivals, large and small, and has made her own adaptations of Canadian novels, including Night Desk by George Ryga.

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

Peter Hay
Dan Dinsmore
Vice President
Bonnie Nesbitt
Jan Schumacher
Dorthea Atwater
Donna Wong Juliani
Cal Meiklejohn
Sergei Ryga
Erick Thompson

Advisory Council

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

Ian Waddell
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.