It’s not every day you get to be in the presence of a literary icon. As an English major graduate and having a lifelong love of literature in general, I was beyond thrilled to get the opportunity to attend Margaret Atwood’s appearance at Central Library. The visit to Hamilton came about as a retaliation of sorts, with our mayor Bob Bratina extending an open invitation to Atwood after controversies in Toronto surrounding public libraries singled out the legendary Canadian author in particular. After emails and a little game of Twitter-tag, Atwood accepted the offer and the visit was a go.
During her day spent in the City, Atwood was taken to Hamilton landmarks such as Dundurn Castle and Cootes Paradise, with the event at Central Library rounding out the tour. During her talk at the library, Atwood mentioned these stops and said she regretted not seeing the inside of a steel mill, which was also on her to-do list, adding that she will perhaps get to that on her next visit. Here at the I Heart Hamilton Tour, we were even contacted by a reporter from the Hamilton division of OpenFile (which, sadly, has now recently been discontinued) to get our take on where we would recommend Atwood visit. We always have lots of ideas – let us know when you visit our beloved city again, Margaret!
With about 300 people in attendance, the event was up on the fourth floor of the library. There was a small stage set up and monitors were positioned along the sides of the audience which helped everybody to see. Bratina said a few words, welcoming Atwood, and joked that if he did nothing else as mayor, he would be pleased to be remembered as the one to bring her to Hamilton. Chief Librarian Ken Roberts also spoke before Atwood stepped up to the podium to speak to the audience and read excerpts from her latest book, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination. She then sat down with Roberts for an interview and they also opened up the floor for a few audience questions. Although the interview was fairly short in order to allow enough time for the book signing, they managed to cover a variety of topics, from the Occupy Movement, to the role of humour in Atwood’s work, to the publishing industry and the state of Canadian literature. It was fascinating to hear Atwood’s thoughts; I wished we could have talked with her longer!
Atwood was also presented with an Honourary Lifetime Membership to The Hamilton Arts Council, which, unbeknownst to me at the time, is the second largest arts council in Ontario and also one of the oldest. And what would be a visit to our fair city without a taste of one of our scrumptious bakeries? Atwood was given cupcakes for the road that Sweetness Bakery had creatively decorated as different Hamilton landmarks. Upon hearing of her impending visit, locals had tweeted Atwood raving about Hamilton’s many bakeries.
I feel so lucky to have been able to attend this event; it meant a lot to me on a personal level and I love that I was able to share it here.