2021 marks the 20 year anniversary of the founding of Philadelphia’s most loved literary event: the 215 Festival. Originally dubbed as McSweeney’s Fest in 2001, the 215 Festival has existed in many forms through the years with one common mission: to put on an offbeat, literary festival that is representative of Philly’s culture and literary community.
Festival Director, Joshua Demaree, immersed himself in Philadelphia's literary community first through working in bookstores and attending literary events around the city. The connections made through these experiences pushed Joshua to co-found his first non-profit literary organization - our very own Blue Stoop!
“As a new literary organization (Blue Stoop), one of the major questions we had to answer was how can we help provide resources to the Philly literary community? One of which being... how are we one of the biggest cities in the country that doesn't have a literary festival?!”
Joshua’s work in growing Blue Stoop gave him the insight and connections needed to re-establish Philly’s premier literary event that connects readers and writers through gatherings that celebrate the literary arts in all their forms by bringing literature off the shelf and into unlikely spaces.
Unlike other arts festivals, the 215 Festival derives most of its content directly from Philly’s literary community. During the planning process, Joshua and the 215 Fest team held happy-hour type “wisdom gatherings'' for the community to discuss what they would want to see out of a literary festival. These fun conversations made the Festival what it is today - by the community, for the community.
“If you look at the lineups of other literary festivals, it's really made up of who has books out that year or the most relevant authors. What we really wanted to do was something very Philly specific, celebrating the literary community that is already here, while also bringing i
Part of what makes the 215 Festival so special is that it has and continues to successfully exist in many different forms throughout the last two decades. “We want it to be a festival that adapts to the times”, Joshua mentioned. “It has existed in many forms, had different names and different directors. We believe a benefit of the festival, and one we are embracing is that it can become what it needs to be at the time rather than just being some institution that never changes”.
215 currently operates strictly on a volunteer basis, with all money and donations going toward the sustainability of the organization and the festival - all to benefit Philadelphia's literary community. Being a member of the CultureWorks community plays a huge role in providing necessary resources, connections, and back-office management to a true “labor of love” organization.
This year's 20th-anniversary festival will include discussion panels, readings, literary performances, social events celebrating the richly diverse and historically significant literary community of the Philadelphia area. The festival will be held virtually the week of May 10-15, 2021.
Find out more about the 215 Festival, check out the schedule, and register for the upcoming events here.