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Halifax Humanities stages 24-hour literary fundraiser

More than 100 people took part in weekend event

4 min read
caption Dawn Brandes, director of Halifax Humanities, introduces the final team to read at Dante Live.
Dylan Coutts

Rachel O’Brien knew that despite her sleep schedule, it would be worth it to stay up early into the morning Sunday for the Halifax Humanities Dante Live fundraiser.

O’Brien, a third-year student at the University of King’s College, was one of five who met in the Wilson Common Room at 3 a.m. to do a reading from Dante’s Purgatory. Her team drew the text’s events out on a whiteboard, as they read through the chapters Halifax Humanities had assigned to them.

O’Brien has participated in fundraisers for Halifax Humanities in the past and was glad to volunteer her time to the charity that hosts free lectures on classical texts for low income, adult students.

“Halifax Humanities is a wonderful organization that gives us all faith in the world. We’re just happy to be here to support the work that they do,” she said.

All in 24 hours

The event started at noon on Saturday and ended at noon the next day. Over the course of 24 hours, supporters of Halifax Humanities congregated at King’s to hear over 100 volunteer readers perform a live reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy in its entirety.

caption Team Eggs in Hell drew their reading from Purgatory on a whiteboard. From left to right: Jacob Hermant, Caleb Sher, Lucia Helder, Stuart Harden and Rachel O’Brien.
Dylan Coutts

To keep the event moving, the text was divided into 24 sections; each section was given to one of 24 volunteer teams for interpretation.

Readers included students, professors and community members who were willing to donate their time. The fundraiser was free to attend, though the charity collected donations at the door and hosted a raffle for a collection of classic novels.

A community around books

Dawn Brandes, executive director of Halifax Humanities, said 24-hour live readings have been a great fundraising tool because they, like Halifax Humanities, are “centred around creating a community around books.”

Brandes also said live readings give volunteers the opportunity to get creative with how they present their sections.

caption Members of the King’s Chorus sing their assigned reading on Saturday.
Dylan Coutts

Some groups, like the Dalhousie Classics Society, acted out their chapters in full costume. Members of the King’s Chorus turned their reading into song, while a group of lawyers from McInnes Cooper attempted part of their reading in Italian.

This year marks Halifax Humanities’ fourth live reading fundraiser. Last year, Odyssey Live — a reading of Homer’s The Odyssey — raised nearly $8,000 for the charity. On Sunday, Brandes said they were “close” to meeting this year’s goal of $9,000.

Halifax Humanities 101 student Ceci Thomson was one of eight to perform the final chapters on Sunday. She said she’s grateful for the program.

“I’d been searching for home and I hadn’t found it until I found (Halifax Humanities)” she said.

Thomson started with the course following a series of brain injuries. She said learning has helped with her recovery.

“I don’t need a degree for the sake of anything really, but I want the assignments; I want to take the exams because that’s how I get to understand the things that I’ve learned,” she said.

caption Halifax Humanities student Ceci Thomson at the final reading of Dante Live.
Dylan Coutts

Brandes said Halifax Humanities has helped a number of adults in a variety of ways.

“Our program can mean different things for different students. It can mean a community that helps them break out of habits of social isolation,” she said. “For some students, it’s a jumping off point for more higher education and, for others, it’s about just awakening a part of them that they haven’t had the chance to foster.”

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