Episode 86: Riverbed Reading Series

Recorded on January 22, 2022

nina jane drystek

Ellen Chang-Richardson

Riverbed Reading Series


I speak with nina jane drystek and Ellen Chang-Richardson of the Riverbed Reading Series. I catch up with them about how they are doing now and their current creative work. There are some great scoops about forthcoming publications.

Coven Editions

Gap Riot Press

We discuss their friendship, their shared dream of having a series, Riverbed’s beginnings and how the name of the series came about. We talk about the different reading series with a special mention of the A B Series run by Max Middle for several years. They talk about the challenges of starting a series during a global pandemic. Virtual events make it possible to feature performers from outside Ottawa and for audience members to be from all over the world.

We discuss other members of Riverbed: Rachel Weldon of Debaser and Joseph Mathieu. a local writer.

Ellen mentions her mentorship with Arts Network Ottawa.

The newsletter and site are both bilingual. Ellen mentions In Our Tongues bilingual programming.

I note their connections and how involved both are in community.

I ask about Riverbed’s connection to Le Hibou and Cabaret Voltaire.

Ellen shows a copy of The DADA Reader: A Critical Anthology, edited by Dawn Ades. Ellen talks about her educational background with regard to DADA and surrealism. One iteration of the series is dedicated to purely experimental work.

Le Hibou was a series that had a cabaret music and poetry scene, which embodied the spirit of what they wanted to do with Riverbed.

SAW Centre

nina jane reminisces about the A B Series and the various performers from all over the world that came to the series.

Ellen notes that they want people to feel welcome, included, comfortable and safe, and Toronto’s Tartan Turban Secret Reading Series as a model.

I talk about an old cafe, Cafe Wim with a similar spirit.

I ask about why they chose to call each event an iteration.

We discuss last fall’s special event with Shaya Ishaq, francesca ekwuyasi (author of Butter Honey Pig Bread) and the idea of partnering with other programmers and groups to hold events. The event was a hybrid event at SAW and on Zoom. There was an experimental film screening and a conversation with Shaya and francesca.

We discuss the first season’s guest curation by Helen Robertson for Iteration IV. I also talk about their Tree Reading Series curation for Pride at the Cove. The 4th iteration is always a curated event. There’s a scoop about February 23rd’s curator but you have to listen to the show to find out who.

We discuss the visual poem in progress by nina jane and Ellen, which is being offered as a gift as part of their annual fundraiser. They express gratitude to all who’ve supported the series. The fundraiser is still ongoing, so you can donate to help pay artists for their work.

I ask them for advice for those who are considering starting a reading series. Making connections with those who know how to run readings series and learning how to program and plan, attending events that are similar and talking to those involved is important.

Ellen invites listeners to sign up to the newsletter. Link available on site. nina jane mentions that they plan to continue being a hybrid series to ensure they can offer virtual access to those who need it. and they have an open mic as well.

Find out about the fourth iteration on February 23, 2022 by visiting the site.

Note of Praise: While Riverbed is one of the few reading series I’ve yet to attend, I was really happy to see it come to fruition and to see two writers I admire join forces, knowing that whatever they created would be exciting, inclusive and thoughtful. I like the hybridity or multi-media aspect of the series, rather than just having all poetry or all music, different genres are combined. I think the series came at a time when Ottawa’s literary series were finally started to become more inclusive after years of centering white creators and focusing on only one genre. It joins In Our Tongues Reading and Art Series, a series that centers BIPOC creators as a refreshing addition to the literary community.

Thanks to nina jane drystek and Ellen Chang-Richardson of the Riverbed Reading Series for being on the show. Thanks to Charles Earl for processing and Jennifer Pederson for the intro and outro. And thanks to all of you for listening and sharing the podcast. Listeners are invited to reach out to them if they want to talk about it. I mention City of Ottawa, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Stay tuned for our next episode, my conversation whit Dani Spinosa and Kate Siklosi of Gap Riot Press and in subsequent episodes, Timglaset Editions of Sweden, The Blasted Tree, Broken Sleep Books from the UK, Knife Fork Book, Hesterglock Press from the UK, above/ground press, Beir Bua from Ireland, and Ethel Zine from the USA. In 2022 we are focussing on small presses and reading series. I still have spots for a few more reading series and presses, so if you’d like to come on the show toward the end of the year, please e-mail me at amanda at angelhousepress dot com.