Richard Johnson (Jamaica Observer) celebrates the success of the Calabash Literary Festival, which was held in Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, last weekend. Johnson reports:
The three-day event — which was founded in 2001 — has seen a raft of noted acts perform on the seaside stage at Jakes Boutique Hotel in the quaint, rural fishing village.
Festival producer Justine Henzell said that with a festival the size of Calabash, there are always things that can go wrong logistically. However, this year nothing hampered its flow. She pointed to the female writers who, for her, stood out. “There were so many incredible female voices. Each one different, each one bringing a different perspective and a different style, but all of them showing excellence. There wasn’t one of them to pick out as a body of work, they were just spectacular. The music was also incredible. On Saturday night, we had Bad Gyal Marie and ZJ Nova who had the whole of Treasure Beach dancing and the night before was Etana and she just brought it home,” Henzell told the Jamaica Observer.
The 2015 Man Booker Prize winner, Jamaican Marlon James, was also among this year’s attendees and he too had praise for the festival. “Calabash offers what it always offers. It brings the literary world here and it brings us to the literary world and it does both at the same time, and it’s the only festival of its kind that does that, and that’s what it has always been doing. I was discovered at Calabash. I found my first publisher, I found my first editor here and for me it was a great nurturer of talent, but also a great place to showcase talent that was not much different from mine. So, to refine authors like me and authors doing stuff in the vein that I was doing and being successful at it artistically,” said James, who won the acclaimed literary prize for his work, A Brief History of Seven Killings.
He told the Observer that he is in the final stages of his next book, expected out in 2019, and also spoke about how winning the Man Booker Prize has transformed his life.
[Photo above by Collin Reid: Co-founder of the Calabash Literary Festival Kwame Dawes shares the stage with the event’s special guests, The Lady Laureates. From second left: Lorna Goodison, Tracy K Smith, Georgette Leblanc and Carol Ann Duffy.]