“The Eastern Cape is a treasure trove of writing talent and we didn’t have to dig very deep to fill our programme with creative gems.” So says Lisa Ker, organiser of the Karoo Writers’ Festival, which will bring a literary buzz to the town of Cradock from Thursday to Sunday.
The first day of the event, July 19, will be dedicated to nurturing young local talent in partnership with the Avbob Poetry Project. Sixty high school pupils who want to write or perform in Xhosa, Afrikaans or English will spend the day with six expert coaches, workshopping poetry for healing, under the umbrella “Words of Comfort”.
The youngest coach, Akhona Mafani, 20, is already a well-established performance poet who will also participate in the Open Microphone sessions which start at 4pm on the Friday 20 July. Open Mic is repeated at the same time on the Saturday, 21 July but with different material and writers.
Friday is also the anniversary of the Cradock Four funeral – the day chosen by Lukhanyo and Abigail Calata for the Eastern Cape launch of their new book, My Father Died for This. The festival honours another great son of Cradock , the late Guy Butler, with talks by Beth Wyrill and Professor Emeritus Malvern van Wyk Smith. Butler would have been 100 this year.
Dr Jade Munslow Ong from the UK will introduce her new book on Olive Schreiner and African Modernism, while her countryman Matthew Whittle (UK) will juxtapose imagery of hunting in the writing of Ernest Hemingway and in the outsize paintings of Walton Ford.
Grahamstown poet Dan Wylie will take a gentler view of animals in Southern African poetry. Before Open Mic, Brian Wilmot will present a slideshow on his Lingelihle tour with an option visit to the site of the old Magqubeni township which was bulldozed into oblivion during the apartheid era. His popular literary Walking Tour of Old Cradock is on the Thursday.
An early Friday supper will be followed by a staged reading of Cradock-based writer Tony Jackman’s new one-actor play, Mein Camp.
Night owls can then enjoy a Late Night Ramble with Cradock legend Toast Coetzer and the Buckfever Underground band, Christiaan Bakkes and Marcia Fargoli (the Cosmic Puffadders from Canon Rocks) and other pop-up performers. This will be repeated with new material on the Saturday night.
On the Saturday morning the festival will move to The Shed precinct with its restaurant, pancake house, nursery, decor shop and great coffee. Market stalls will include the festival’s pop-up book table and individual tables by Eve Clayton, Alan Elsdon and other authors. Speakers will include novelist Jo-Anne Richards, Cradock poet Clinton V du Plessis, Martin Welz (on 25 years of editing Noseweek magazine), Toast Coetzer and Alice Inggs on Writing Landscape, and Graaff-Reinet chef Gordon Wright on his new book Karoo Food.
Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit will close the day with a presentation on their new book, Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa. This will be followed by a Karoo dinner with wine-tasting by Leopard’s Leap vineyard.On Sunday the entire festival will adjourn to Dirosie Game Lodge on Buffelshoek farm.
Brunch will be served and midlands farming personality Errol Moorcroft will launch his book of anecdotes – The Wool-classer, the Shearer and the Golden Fleece. The festival programme will end on a high note with an optional guided trip up to the Schreiner sarcophagus on Buffelskop. The full programme and details of a low-price day pass offer are at www.karoowritersfestival.weebly.com