The week of July 21 to 27 has been proclaimed George Ryga Week in British Columbia, marking a change of emphasis in the way the Summerland playwright is remembered.
“In the past George Ryga Week has occurred in November, marking the date when George passed away,” said Keith Ferlin, president of the George Ryga Centre Society.
“This year we are celebrating George’s life. The week ends on Saturday, July 27, which would have been George’s 81st birthday.”
Ryga was born in Alberta in 1932. He died in Summerland in 1987 at the age of 55.
The majority of his writing was done from his home on Caldwell Street in Summerland, where he lived from 1962 until his death.
He is best known for his 1967 play, The Ecstasy of Rita Joe.
Ferlin said the change of date for George Ryga Week represents a new direction in how Ryga’s legacy is celebrated.
The house, which had been converted into a retreat for artists, was sold in the past year.
While the house is now privately owned, the new owner is a Ryga Society supporter, Ferlin said.
“As many people know, the Ryga house in Summerland, home of the George Ryga Centre, was sold to handle serious financial issues that were facing the Society. Although the house is now privately owned, the new owner is a Ryga Society supporter, so we are very happy that the house is in good hands.”
Proceeds from the sale of the house have been invested and the society is in talks with several cultural groups to endow a scholarship for emerging writers.
“As a rural farm boy in northern Alberta, George was encouraged to write as a teen-ager through scholarships from the IODE and other groups. In that spirit, we intend to endow a lasting legacy to support other writers,” Ferlin said.
“The society is looking forward to future involvement with the community in the spirit of George Ryga.”
On George Ryga’s birthday, July 27, the Society members and family members will gather to celebrate George’s life.