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.
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.
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.