Tuesday, 18 January 2011

REQUIEM FOR A DREAM: Traditional Calabash Literary Festival ends after a fabulous decade

THE END OF AN ERA: Calabash's Carlene Samuels, Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell pose for pics after Monday's press conference (above); Dawes faces the music.

For true lovers of the literary arts, it was the dreaded news none of us wanted to hear: the beloved Calabash Literary Festival is no more. At least in the traditional sense, whereby each May we flock in droves to the magical Treasure Beach sea-side setting for a glorious weekend of the written and spoken word, food and fellowship. At a press conference convened at St. Andrew’s Red Bones Blues Cafe Monday evening, festival directors Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell (Colin Channer was unavoidably absent) cited “a combination of factors” (financial strain included) as the catalyst for the decision. On Monday Dawes did much of the talking, but he made it quite clear that “it’s a decision we take together.”

Here’s the full text of Dawes’ announcement:

“...Calabash will not be taking place this year. In any case, the festival we have been doing for ten excellent years is pretty much over the way that we know it. In the beginning we committed ourselves to ten years of the arts, the literary arts in Jamaica and to bring the best literature to Jamaica from around the world. And we managed to do that. We also saw partners in Jake’s, Treasure Beach, and the many sponsors who have supported the festival.

But after ten years, we feel that we have done a great deal of work. The festival will not happen this year, and in fact we are going to regroup to determine the future of the festival. We are currently thinking about and discussing the continuation of the work that the Literary Trust does. The work that we do in terms of workshops, writers’ workshops etc, those will continue, and at the same time we plan to have major literary events that promote and celebrate the arts in Jamaica.

One of the things we are discussing is the 50th anniversary of our Independence in Jamaica, and we are hoping to have a very big event in 2012. But as it stands now, we are now looking at where we are going from here. But I can say categorically that as for the festival this year, 2011, and the current state of the literary festival, Calabash is no more.

This is not an easy decision that we’ve taken, and it was taken in anticipation that it will upset people, and we accept those reactions. But at the same time we have very good reasons for making this decision. And so we choose to look at the past work that has been done to promote the the literary arts in Jamaica.

* Personally, Calabash is life for me, and so it was a difficult decision to make. But the core spirit and commitment we all have for it hasn’t changed. This is not an end but a new beginning, and that’s how we choose to see it.”

TALLAWAH NOTE: So sad. Oh, well. At least I'll always have fond memories to occasionally reflect on. Corny as it may sound, Calabash will always have a place in my heart. *tears*

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