Calabash off till next year

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A report by Richard Johnson for Jamaica’s Gleaner.

There will be no Calabash International Literary Festival this year.

The event — which was originally set for May 29-31 in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth — had been rescheduled for September 11-13. However, due to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organisers of the festival have seen it fit to move the festival to May 29-31 next year.

Director of the festival Justine Henzell told the Jamaica Observer that, given the current situation, a decision was taken to move the festival to next year, when, it is hoped, there will be a change in the status of the pandemic.

“We just had to. When we looked at the situation, the country is still not fully open and the situation as it relates to COVID-19 is still so up in the air that we just realised it was the best thing to do for the safety of all concerned. One of the great things about having the festival next year is that 2021 will mark the 20th anniversary of Calabash. So all things being equal, next year we will be celebrating big for this milestone anniversary,” she said.

The Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in 2001 by novelist Colin Channer, poet Kwame Dawes, and Henzell. Over the years, an impressive raft of literary greats has presented at the festival. They include late Nobel laureate Sir Derek Walcott, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Man Booker Prize winner Jamaican Marlon James, British-Indian novelist Salman Rushdie, famous for his bestselling work The Satanic Verses which sparked a major controversy provoking protests from Muslims in several countries.

Henzell noted that she is pleased with the support received from stakeholders who have been accommodating of the changes in the date of the biennial festival.

“Calabash is such a community-based event. The last thing we would want to do is to impact Treasure Beach and the surrounding areas in a negative way. So we are being safe. We just want Treasure Beach to be safe, so we are prepared to wait and do it when it is safe to do so. I must say how pleased I am with the response we have received from everybody concerned. The authors have all said they are prepared to come next May, once there [are] no scheduling conflicts and all or sponsors have indicated that they will stay with us for the new date next year, so we’re looking forward to that,” said Henzell.

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