The audience mainly came from Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean, but participants came around the world.
The numerous stalls at the entrance to the venue, displayed colourful crafts and and clothes and there was an opportunity to sample some Jamaican coffee. Food and drinks were also continuously available, of course.
On day one, we enjoyed listening to Jamacian writers such as Nicole Dennis-Benn, whose debut novel, ‘Here comes the sun’, will be published this year. Award winning, Kaylie Jones, author of ‘Lies my mother never told me’ read some of her work, together with, Chigozie Obioma, whose first novel,‘The Fishermen’, was named as book of the year for 2015 by the UK Observer, The Economist, The Financial Times and others.
Poets such as Ilya Kaminsky, Valdimir Lucien and Jessica Care Moore, performed some of their work. There might be some bias here, but I particularly liked Vladimir's poem 'Description of Articles', where he lists items we conceal in our suitcases when we are leaving the Caribbean for England. This poem had most of us in fits of laughter.
The evening ended with a wonderful Roots Rock Reggae session, with reggae singer and songwriter, Protoje, as the main artist.
In the ‘Movable Feast’ section, on day two, we were treated to poetry readings from Tishani Doshi, Nikola Madzirov, Ladan Osman and Kei Miller. Novelists included the Man Bookere prize winner, Eleanor Catton. Poet, novelist and political activist, Chris Abani (Nigeria/USA) sat in facinating reasoning (conversation) with Paul Holdenraber. I was particularly touched by his poems about his father.
On the last day, we listened to extracts from the stories of the five finalists of the Commonwealth Short story competition for 2016. Then the final winner was announced. This year Parashar Kulkarni, from India, won the grand prize (£5,000). Well done Parashar. His story, ‘Cow and company’, also had the audience in giggles.
The two popular open mike sessions allowed some people in the audience (mainly poets, due to the three minute limit) to perform some of their work. This really demonstrated just how many talented people are out there (most 'undiscovered'). I got the opportunity to read one of my pieces of flash fiction: 'An Okay Day'.
The final day ended with music from the Calabash Acoustic Ensemble. The theme was a celebration of food, so many were taken down memory lane with Jamaican folk songs such as:
"...carry mi ackee, go a Linstead Market
Not a quattie worth sell
...carry me ackee, go a Linstead Market
Not a quattie worth sell...
Lawd what a night, not a bite
What a Saturday night
Lawd what a night not a bite
What a Saturday night.'
Here are some pics (and a U-Tube link) I think you'll also enjoy.
Me with my country man: poet, screenwriter and actor, Vladimir Lucien.
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Check out this U-Tube link with Protoje and one of my favourite young reggae artists, Chronixx.
The Calabash Literary Festival takes place biennially. Admission is free!
I know one person who's not going to miss it in 2018.