It’s a great day for Alberta writers. The listeners have pledged money and CKUA, the province’s listener-supported public broadcaster, has granted a stay of execution to Bookmark, the weekly half-hour radio program dedicated to exploring Alberta’s literary scene.
For a while there, it looked as if the two-year-old Bookmark would have to be cancelled due to lack of funding. CKUA announced in late June 2009 that it couldn’t afford to keep the program on the air for a third season. “Spoken-word programs are more time consuming, and therefore more expensive to produce, than music programs,” said the press release. If funding for twenty of the thirty-five Bookmark programs planned for 2009-10 could not be found by the end of July, the program would be terminated.
Bookmark’s host, Ken Davis, immediately launched a province-wide campaign to save this program that has made an important contribution to the provincial conversation about books and writing. Over the past several months, it has featured lengthy interviews with such well-known Alberta writers as Thomas Wharton, Sheri-D Wilson, Fred Stenson, Marina Endicott, Linda Goyette, Andrew Nikiforuk, Shirlee Smith Matheson and Alice Major.
Davis set himself what seemed at first like an impossible goal. He undertook to raise $20,000 in a matter of weeks. He invited Bookmark fans to donate $500 to sponsor one broadcast of the program, or $900 to sponsor two programs, or $1,300 to sponsor three programs, and so on.
After one week of campaigning, Davis had good news and bad to report. Corporate donors had pledged $10,000 and individuals had contributed $5,000. “The not-quite-so-good news is that we have two weeks left to get over the $20,000 mark or CKUA management will have to announce cancellation of the program,” said Davis. “So we’re not quite out of the woods yet.”
At the eleventh hour, on July 23, Davis and his supporters received word from CKUA that they had met their fundraising target, and that Bookmark would be on the air for another year. The new season begins Sept. 13, after the summer repeats. “Bookmark is not just a unilateral initiative by a few people,” said a grateful Davis. “It is a broad-based co-operative effort by literally hundreds of people across Alberta to ensure the literary community and book trade in this province have a forum and a communication platform for reaching out to each other, and to Albertans, and to the world.”
Like I say, it’s a great day for Alberta writers.