JIS News

Calabash International Literary Festival returns for its annual staging next month, and festival founder, Colin Channer, promises that this year’s event, while having much of its original flavour, will appeal to a more diverse audience.
“It is going to present many of the things that people like, and we are going to be doing some new things. It is going to be earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse,” he told JIS News at the media launch of the event which was held in picturesque Strawberry Hill yesterday (April 19).
Among the new features of the three-day event, which will be held from May 26 to May 28 in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, is an onstage conversation with British author, Geoff Dyer, while on opening night, actor Delroy Lindo, will read from Calabash’s anthology ‘Iron Balloons: Hit Fiction From Jamaica’s Calabash Writer’s Workshop.’
“There is nothing like hearing an actor read a story because all the nuances of voice and subtleties of body language come into play. He is one of the most respected actors in Hollywood, on the Broadway stage and London’s West End, so it is going to be one of those small changes that make a big difference,”Mr. Channer said.
In addition, he told JIS News that he and co-organiser, Kwame Dawes, had made a conscious decision to include more women authors and performers on the festival bill this year.
Among the females scheduled to appear are United States-based authors and poets, Sonia Sanchez, Cathleen Falsani, Lolita Hernandez, Suheir Muhammad, Margi Jefferson and Ishle Park; Diana Evans from Great Britain; Cheryl Boyce-Taylor from Trinidad; and Tanya Stephens, Emily Crooks and Lorna Goodison from Jamaica.
As for male representation, Mr. Channer informed that these would include Jamaicans Marlon James, Wayne Armond, Seretse Small, Billy Mystic and Stevie Golding; South-African born novelist, Zakes Mda; Nairobi native, M.G. Vassanji; and Wall Street Journal staff editor, Christopher John Farley.
Held since 2000, the Calabash Festival is a literary feast for writers, poets and book lovers. The event has grown over the years, with an estimated 3,500 persons attending in 2005, but its founder vowed that the intimacy of the event would not be affected by increased attendance.
“I think the idea of intimacy is very important to the Calabash experience and as we grow, we have been proactively considering ways of keeping that intimacy and even increasing it,” Mr. Channer said, noting that, the “combination of music and readings, and maintaining those long breaks that we have for people to mix and mingle,” have helped to maintain that familiarity.
Also contributing to the intimacy of the event is the relationship developed with the local Treasure Beach community. “The people of Treasure Beach are great stewards and fans of the festival. They volunteer to come out to work at the festival as ushers, they help to prepare the festival area every year, they are the ones who planted the new lawn, which we had last year and will have this year,” he pointed out.
Mr. Channer further noted that the community residents have benefited economically from the event, as they provide accommodation for patrons. “When it comes down to it, Calabash is fundamentally a local festival that has national, regional and international appeal and relevance,” he said. Asked whether there were plans to move to a different venue as the festival continued to grow, he said, “Calabash was staying put in Treasure Beach. The environment is a crucial part of our appeal and .one does not leave Eden, one has to be cast out.”

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