C.S. Lewis Festival
“I am a product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes and the noise of the wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books…..I wrote the books I should have liked to read. That’s always been my reason for writing. People won’t write the books I want, so I have to do it for myself.” C.S. Lewis
Why a C. S. Lewis Festival in Northern Michigan? C. S. Lewis was enthralled of what he termed “pure Northernnes” …”a vision of huge, clear spaces hanging above the Atlantic (or Lake Michigan) in the endless twilight of Northern summer, remoteness, severity.” In 2002 a group of educators, cultural leaders, local clergy, and Emmy Award winning producer David Crouse, came together to help promote the screening of David’s television biography on Lewis. The Festival was thus organized to promote The Magic Never Ends: The Life and Faith of C. S. Lewis before it’s roll-out nationwide on PBS stations.
A Board of Directors was formed and created the following Mission Statement: To provide an enriching cultural experience for all people that explores the life and work of C.S. Lewis through collaborations by the arts, education and faith communities. Since inception, perceived barriers between the arts, educational, and faith communities have come down, and lives are enriched by new ideas and relationships.
The festival has won state-wide recognition through the Imagine Michigan! initiative as well as national-international attention through its cast of world-class speakers and advisors. The Detroit Free press wrote (The Lewis Festival is) “known across the country for dozens of innovative activities and is leading the wave of interfaith dialogue in Michigan.”
Keynote speakers have included such international figures as Douglas Gresham, stepson of C. S. Lewis and co-producer of the Narnia movies; Walter Hooper, Lewis secretary and literary advisor to the Lewis estate; Best selling author Philip Yancey; Dr. Christopher Mitchell of the Wade Center at Wheaton College ; Rev. Dr. Michael Ward, chaplain of Peterhouse, Cambridge UK, and former warden of The Kilns; Dr. Jerry Root, Director of the Institute for Strategic Evangelism at the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, and co-author of the best selling book, The Quotable Lewis; Dr. Wayne Martindale, Professor of English Emeritus, Wheaton College and co-author of The Quotable Lewis; Dr. Andrew Cuneo , former president of the Oxford CSL Society; and Emmy Award winning producer Chip Duncan (The Magic Never Ends: The Life and Faith of C.S. Lewis).
And those are just our guest scholars! Nearly two dozen civic, cultural, religious and educational organizations have participated since inception. The local talent involved in the festival from year to year is the hallmark of the festival. We are grateful for the numerous participating sponsors and Lewis members for volunteering and their financial support.
Among its many events, the Lewis Festival has created an innovative writing curriculum, the C. S. Lewis Writers Workshop, for all 4th grade students in Petoskey. Retired Petoskey school superintendent, and past Board member, Dr. John Scholten, said the C.S. Lewis Writing Workshop “has provided opportunities to reinforce writing and speaking skills in a manner that would not be possible without this collaborative effort.” Petoskey St. Francis Elementary school’s fifth grade class (over 20 students each year) creates their own one-person, one-act play inspired by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. St. Francis principal (retired), Jim Kanine, said of the Festival, “To have this Festival in Petoskey is a stunning accomplishment. If someone had told me that this would be a reality in Petoskey, I would never have believed it. It could happen on a small scale, but certainly not on the grandest scale.”
Collaboration: The C.S. Lewis Festival is an unprecedented collaboration amongst the arts, faith, and education communities of Northern Michigan. While the area is considered a cultural destination, there is a dearth of opportunities in the arena of literary arts on a community-wide scale. The Festival brings literary scholars and performing artists to our area and provide opportunities for healthy dialogue on a subject of common interest between people of all ages and backgrounds. Most of the events are free and open to the public. This brings people to our area from around the state, Midwest, and nation who have an interest in Lewis, thus positioning the Little Traverse Bay area as a “campus” for the literary arts.
Tourism: Since the inception over 20,000 have attended a myriad of events that have boosted business with participating bookstores, hotels, and restaurants.