The Montreal Intercultural Storytelling Festival is the biggest event of its kind in Canada and is now recognized throughout the world as a major celebration of oral storytelling.
Founder Marc Laberge—an ethnographer, storyteller and writer—had the idea for the festival when he realized how the oral storytelling tradition, which had been so strong in Quebec, was being lost. He firmly believed that “if all the others forms of artistic expression had their own broad public forum, storytelling should have one, too.” This challenge was met in 1993, with the establishment of the Festival interculturel du conte de Montréal, a new organization that reflected Quebec’s new multiethnic, multicultural reality. Held each year from 1993 to 1995, the festival took a break in 1996, giving it an opportunity to broaden its scope and become a regular biennial event starting in 1997.
In 1995, Roslyn Cohen became the artistic director of English events, making the festival bilingual as well as multicultural.
Since its founding in 1993, the festival has featured performers (both storytellers and musicians) from over fifty countries and cultures. In 1997, the festival received a recognition award when it was shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de Montréal [Montreal arts council]. In 2007, the association Festivals et événements du Québec ranked the poster created by Benoît Laverdière as a finalist for the Prix Coup d’Éclat, in the category poster with a budget under $500,000. In 2009, the head of the Festival, Marc Laberge, was awarded the Acadie-Québec prize for his outstanding contribution to the development and strengthening of ties between Acadia and Quebec.
In 2015, founder Marc Laberge handed over the reins of the organization to Stéphanie Bénéteau after a one-year mentorship. The new director is well known in the storytelling community: not only is she a professional storyteller, both in Quebec and internationally, but she also ran the English side of the festival in 2009.
In 2016, under the aegis of its new director, the festival was again shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de Montréal.
In 2017, the new director refocused the festival to make it a platform for a contemporary art form rooted in the city, exploring issues that speak to today’s audiences, of all generations and all backgrounds. In 2018, Stéphanie Bénéteau received the Jocelyn Bérubé award, known as the “Oscar for storytelling,” both for her work as a storyteller of sagas and epic tales and her involvement as director of the Festival interculturel du conte de Montréal. The FICM was also awarded a recognition prize at the Folktales and Myths on the Back of the Centaur festival in Pelion, in Greece, for its outstanding contribution to the art of storytelling internationally.
The Festival will celebrate its 15th edition and its 26th birthday in October, 2019.