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

Hello and welcome. Thank you for taking a moment to join me here as we look forward to the 2021 Ryga Arts Festival. But first, a quick glance back to 2020.

The adjustments we made last year allowed a great sense of connection to the plays, poetry and music shared in Zoom events; home comfort with ‘live to your living room’ broadcasts, and the fun of ‘totally acoustic and outdoor’ events. Our online audiences joined us from far-flung places including Costa Rica, Ireland, Australia and even the Ukraine; a thrill for a festival so richly-rooted in the Okanagan. We are incredibly grateful to everyone for attending the 2020 festival.

This year, we’re again ensuring we respond to rapidly changing health guidelines. Our priority is caring of our audiences, artists and art through online programming. We’ll also have outdoors and live-streamed events, so you can attend from home or maybe even outdoors with family and friends.

Our passion for celebrating the arts, inspired by George Ryga’s creativity and values, continues through our programming in words, theatre and music. We know you love arts and culture as much as we do, with this in mind, we’re continuing to offer a wide-range of ticket prices, including many ‘Pay What You Choose’ (PWYC) events.

Tickets are now on sale and we are looking forward to seeing you in August.

Please consider joining our e-newsletter or following us on social media (@rygafest on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). If you are able to make a donation through Canada Helps, please know every bit helps, allowing us to offer more PWYC events and build resilience for the future.

From everyone here on the Ryga Arts Festival team, thank you for supporting the festival.

See you soon and best wishes,


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.



Community Partners