In 1989, the Promotions Committee of the Book and Periodical Council determined that the time had come for Toronto, as Canada’s publishing capital, to join other major publishing centres and host their own large-scale public festival of the written word. Envisioned to celebrate Canadian authors, books and magazines and to advocate for literacy, the Toronto Book and Magazine Fair was incorporated in March 1990 as a non-profit organization and branded the name of the festival as The Word On The Street. The inaugural festival, launched in International Literacy Year, took place on Sunday, September 30, 1990 on Queen Street West in Toronto. Upwards of 30,000 people attended. The overwhelming support provided to Toronto’s festival by the local community, publishing industry leaders, and government officials, demonstrated what could be achieved on a national level.
To facilitate its expansion mandate, the Toronto Book and Magazine Fair Trust was incorporated nationally as The Word On The Street Canada Inc. in 1994 and registered as a charitable organization. In 1995 Vancouver and Halifax established regional festivals. Ottawa and Calgary were added to the network of festivals a few years later and in 2002, Kitchener launched its first festival. Saskatoon held a preview event in 2010 and officially launched in 2011 along with Lethbridge. Currently, licences are held by Halifax, Toronto, Kitchener, Saskatoon, and Lethbridge.
The Word On The Street's network of festivals is enormous in scope and mark it as one of the world’s largest literary celebrations. In 2012, almost 270,000 visitors attended 440 programmed events featuring 650 authors, workshop presenters and arts performers. The festivals showcased 590 book and magazine exhibitors . Many of those exhibitors were small presses, independent authors and writing associations who benefit enormously from their exposure at the festivaq. As part of the festival's commitment to literacy, ten percent of the total exhibit space is provided to literacy organizations.
The Word On The Street has received a long list of awards over the years. Most prestigious was its national nomination the Canadian Event Industry Award's “Best Festival” Star Award in 2012.
The Word On The Street’s on-going success has been supported through partnerships established with media and sponsors from private sector organizations. Most important has been the delivery of a FREE festival to participants which would not be possible without the funding support provided by national, regional and municipal governments.
• Book and Periodical Council
• Canadian Give The Gift of Literacy Foundation
• Canadian Authors Association
• Canadian Book Information Centre
• Canadian Book Publishers
• Council Canadian Booksellers Associations
• Canadian Children's Book Centre
• Freelance Editors Association of Canada
• Canadian Library Association
• Canadian Magazine Publishing Association
• League of Canadian Poets
• Literary Presses Group
• Ontario Literacy Coalition
• Periodical Writer's Association of Canada
• Playwright's Union of Canada
• Writer's Union of Canada