Geoffrey Taylor, the director of the Toronto International Festival of Authors, will step down after this year’s edition, The Globe and Mail has learned.
There was no immediate word on his successor.
Whoever replaces Taylor will have big shoes to fill: He has been the festival’s artistic director since the summer of 2003 and served as an administrative director for 13 years before that. He is only the festival’s second director in its 40-year history, taking over from its founder, Greg Gatenby.
“I started at the festival in 1990, so the 30-year run seems like a pretty good one,” Taylor said in a brief interview on Monday afternoon, explaining his decision to step down this year.
“I’ve got a lot of other things that aren’t work-related that I want to get done with my life, so I need to find time for all that as well.”
Under the leadership of Taylor, 58, the festival expanded from its initial focus on readings by authors of fiction, which had been emphasized by Gatenby, to provide a broader platform for the discussion of books and ideas.
Taylor suggested that expansion would be part of his legacy. “We had more debut writers under my tenure than ever before. We did more mystery books, we introduced graphic novels, more for young readers, we did more non-fiction. We certainly opened up more opportunities for young authors and writers."
The festival also expanded its geographic scope under Taylor to include events outside of Toronto and its base at the city’s Harbourfront complex on Lake Ontario. In 2006, the festival launched Lit on Tour, which takes authors to more than a dozen towns and cities across the province for readings, discussions, and signings.
Approximately 200 authors appeared at last year’s annual fall festival and Taylor said this year’s 40th anniversary edition would feature a similar-sized cohort, though, the programming will differ slightly because of the landmark year. “I get to position [this year’s] more as a kind of look-back and a look-forward kind of thing. So I think it’s a better festival to [be my last one]."
He declined to reveal the festival’s annual attendance figures, saying only that “thousands of people come.” He added that the festival’s free events, which were introduced over the past few years, have grown in popularity. “We’re getting more students, more young people."
Taylor acknowledged that, owing to the small size of the festival’s staff – the programming is done almost entirely by him and deputy director Christine Saratsiotis – there is no succession plan in place. “I would like to think that they’ll have to search everywhere on the planet to find my replacement,” he joked.
This year’s festival is scheduled Oct. 24-Nov. 3.
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