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Ryga Arts Festival in Summerland to feature Ukrainian themes

Arts festival in September to include music, spoken word events and more
George Ryga, considered by many as Canada’s most important English playwright lived in Summerland from 1963 until his death in 1987. He is the inspiration for the annual Ryga Arts Festival. (Contributed)

The eighth season of Summerland’s Ryga Arts Festival will honour the people struggling to keep Ukraine free.

The festival, to be held Sept. 20 to 24, will also celebrate Ukrainian heritage in Canada.

This year’s festival will feature a visiting production of Alina by Lianna Makuch.

The play is based on the real-life story of a nurse named Alina caught in the Russian invasion of the east Donetsk region. It was created after three visits to Ukraine by a team from Pyretic Productions in Edmonton.

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Pyretic Productions will also give a theatre workshop about their process of collaborative creation.

Another major event of this year’s festival is the closing concert by the Ryga Brothers on Sept. 23. Campbell Ryga, saxophonist and multiple Juno award winner will play with his brother Sergei and other musicians they grew up with, for their second appearance at the festival.

The last time the brothers visited Summerland, where they grew up, was in 2021, with the rededication of the George Ryga Arts and Cultural Centre.

There will be other musical, theatrical and spoken word events featuring regional talent. The Summerland branch of the Okanagan Regional Library will host a number of author readings and entertain young and old alike with storytelling from the vast collection of Ukrainian folk tales collected and published by Summerland author Danny Evanishen.

The Ryga Arts Festival was established in 2016 to preserve and promote the legacy of George Ryga, the internationally known Canadian playwright, novelist and social activist who first brought to public notice the plight of Indigenous women with his widely produced play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.

Ryga was born in northern Alberta two years after his parents left Ukraine in 1930, and some of his early novels deal with the harsh life of Ukrainian immigrants.

Ryga left the family farm and started writing after winning a scholarship to the Banff School of the Arts. He was 30 when he moved with his family to Summerland, where he died in 1987. There is an annual Ryga Book Award for Social Awareness, playwriting fellowship at the Banff Centre and bursaries at Okanagan College established in his name.

Tickets are available with a detailed program on the Ryga Festival website at

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John Arendt

About the Author: John Arendt

John Arendt has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years. He has a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Journalism degree from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute.
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