Calabash wheels…and promises to come again…

Wole Soyinka being interviewed by Paul Holdengräber at Calabash International Literary Festival

Well, the news of the moment is that Jamaica’s beloved Calabash International Literary Festival is no more. At a press conference this evening Calabash Programme Director, Kwame Dawes, announced the demise of the festival saying that Calabash, in its ‘present incarnation’ had come to an end and would not be held this year.

The plan is to regroup and return in a new avatar in 2012, Dawes said. 2012 is also the fiftieth anniversary of Jamaica’s independence and the new event will focus on celebrating fifty years of literary production in Jamaica.

Colin Channer, the leonine writer who has been the motive force behind the festival, is also no longer part of the core group. No reasons were given for his departure, with Dawes merely remarking that Channer’s decision was ‘mysterious’. Channer had been the artistic director of Calabash since its inception.

A valued Twitter source sent a message offering Channer’s perspective: Just talk to Channer, Man seh 10 year as the head is enough& anything longer would be a sign that something is wrong that it can’t grow beyond him

Calabash Literary Festival 2007
Colin Channer (l) posing with the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (First Book) finalists in 2007. Photo: Georgia Popplewell

The constant challenge of raising funding each year and drawing on personal resources has also taken its toll of the three principals behind the festival.

This is a brief post to give you the breaking news…a more detailed post will follow in the next few days. See my posts on earlier Calabashes below:

Calabash Ho! (single entendre please–)

Walcott on Naipaul

‘Bad Words’ at Calabash 09

Post-Calabash Glow: Vintage 10

13 thoughts on “Calabash wheels…and promises to come again…

  1. I couldn’t believe this when I read the article. If they will continue in 2012 that’s comforting. Events like this should never die because of poor funding. I haven’t been to any (slap on wrist) but I’ve always read the good reviews/seen photos. Great product and a huge event for the arts in Jamaica.

    Hope it will be back for 2012…great year for Jamaica.

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  4. I’m surprised that the government has not stepped in to provide some seed money. Calabash brings in tourism and it has done a lot to improve Jamaica’s image over the years. That’s something that the government needs to do something to support.

    • They did recieve money from the Tourist Board, i don’t think this is as much about money as everyone seems to think. If a crucial member of the team bails out its kind’ve difficult to continue…

  5. Hi Annie,

    Love your blog! Thanks for keeping us updated on this and I look forward to your interview with Kwame Dawes. This is really sad for the Caribbean literary scene. I have never been to the festival, but have been following it online for a few years. I’ve also appreciated what it has done in highlighting Caribbean authors. Hope it really returns in 2012.

    • Thanks Yasmin! shall visit yours. i’m delaying my new post on Cbash till Kwame has had a chance to finetune his responses. but thanks for your comment and for reading me.

  6. I was so shocked when I saw your tweet. This is truly a scandal that a first rate event like this can’t attract sponsors, while events that degrade and insult our people often have no problem in doing so.

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