TORONTO More than 500 guests filled the Regency Ballroom at the Four Seasons Hotel on Tuesday for the 17th annual Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremony, held to award the country's largest literary prize. The Giller gala, which is broadcast live on television, has a tight timeline, requiring dinner service to be completed in less than two hours.
“It's quite an event,” said Mafalda Caruso, CTV's executive director of special events, who worked with Elana Rabinovitch (daughter of the prize's founder, Jack Rabinovitch) to plan the evening. “We want it to be very glitzy on camera, so everything glitters, from the flowers that have little diamonds in them to the table numbers,” Caruso said of the gala, broadcast live at 9 p.m. on Bravo! and streamed live on CTV.ca. (CTV carried the broadcast one hour later.)
The prize awards $50,000 to the author of the best Canadian novel or short story collection published in English, and $5,000 to each of the other finalists. Montreal writer and poet Johanna Skibsrud took home the 2010 prize for her first novel, The Sentimentalists, published by Gaspereau Press. This year's finalists also included authors David Bergen, Alexander MacLeod, Sarah Selecky, and Kathleen Winter.
The gala began with a cocktail reception followed by a four-course meal of fries served with smoked tomato ketchup; sweet chili ahi tuna tartar; pink peppercorn-crusted grilled tenderloin; and grand cru torte. “We have [one hour and 45 minutes] to serve the food, because by 8:45 p.m., we have to be done and cleared. You have to be on time because [the broadcast is] live,” said Caruso.
A roster of celebrity presenters—including 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Linden MacIntyre, singer-songwriter Anne Murray, Maclean's columnist and award-winning author Barbara Amiel Black, CTV News anchor Lisa LaFlamme, and Blue Rodeo frontman Jim Cuddy—introduced video profiles of the short-listed authors and presented each with a leather-bound copy of their books during the ceremony, hosted by CTV's Seamus O'Regan and executive produced by Jana Juginovic.
Meanwhile, about 500 guests gathered at the Berkeley Church for the Scotiabank Giller Light Bash, an event that began as a house party nine years ago and is now a full-scale gala for Toronto’s publishing industry. MTV's Aliya-Jasmine Sovani hosted the event, which raises funds for Frontier College.