An Interview with Olivier Courtois, Public Reader (Liseur Public)

Pictured, Olivier Courtois, a “Liseur Public.”

A program run by the Carrefour jeunesse emploi de Hochelaga-Maisonneuve (the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve youth employment agency), “public readers” read poetry and short excerpts of books to members of the general public. Aimed chiefly at those 16 to 35, this program has been at work since 2019, and shows up at public events around the neighborhood, to interest people in reading and in Quebec authors. At the end of the reading, the reader will offer you the book for free!

They’ve had such success that the Liseur Public program has since been implanted in St-Jérome, Trois-Rivières and Québec City, with a hand from the original Hochelaga-Maisonneuve program.

On the rooftop garden at the Cuisine Collective Hochelaga-Maisonneuve community kitchen.

Olivier agreed to do an interview with us. Here are our questions, and his answers:

What made you want to be a Public Reader?

After my training in theatrical interpretation at the Cégep de St-Hyacinthe, I was looking for great opportunities to do my job in my neighborhood on a regular basis. In 2019, I saw the opening of this new project and this new position via the Carrefour jeunesse-emploi (youth employment centre) in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. I took a chance and got this wonderful job. What I like about this work is how we make the arts and human encounters resonate.

– Have you had any incidents while doing this that have particularly affected you, especially with young people?

We are lucky to have rich exchanges with different groups in the neighborhood. Obviously, there are very beautiful encounters in our journey. For four years, we have been working closely with the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve adult school, Centre Hochelaga, and we even managed to bring some of the students to the Montreal Book Fair. It’s so fun to introduce new books and authors to these students.

I can see your training from the Liseur Public website (an actor by training at the Cégep de St-Hyacinthe theater school, class of 2012) but do you have anything to add?

That’s right, I graduated in 2012 and have been pursuing my acting career for 10 years. I have the chance to work on different projects and to do socially engaged theater with the Théâtre Parminou. My resume is available on the internet:

– You must like to read. Tell me about your love of reading.

Initially, I was not the most passionate about reading. I used reading as a tool during my acting training, but I didn’t take the time to read for myself. I made my first great literary discoveries in secondary 3 thanks to the personal library of my French teacher. I had my first contacts with Patrick Senécal and Chrystine Brouillet. The Liseur Public project allows me to create wonderful encounters and to tame the literary world in my own way.

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