Mon | Jan 21, 2019

Calabash Lit Up 2018 - A cultural mecca

Published:Thursday | April 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMKimberley Small/Gleaner Writer
From left: D.K. Duncan, his wife Beverley Manley Duncan, and Sheila Graham at Tuesday’s launch of Calabash 2018 held at Redbones Blues Cafe on Argyle Road.
From left: Justine Henzell; Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica Laurie Peters; Jeremiah Knight, counsellor for public affais, US Embassy; Kwame Dawes, artistic director of Calabash; and author Beverly East.
John Habel (left) converses with Secretese Small.

With support from the US Embassy, the British Council, the Canadian High Commission, and the Jamaica Tourist Board, among others, Calabash Literary Festival will return to the Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, from June 1-3, 2018.

This year's festival, titled 'Calabash Lit Up', will feature an astounding line-up of readings, conversations, and, as is customary, open-mic sessions for those who are still honing their skills.

"We have realised that it is the intangible assets that will take Jamaica forward as a destination - to give us a sustained competitive advantage," said Donovan White, director of tourism of the Jamaica Tourist Board. According to White, Calabash Literary Festival is a cultural mecca - which fits within the growth pillars meant to build 'Destination Jamaica'.

Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, British Council's country director for Jamaica, regaled her tale as a patron of the very first staging of the festival in 2001, and now celebrates her return to the 14th with special collaborative projects.

The partnership between Calabash and the British Council consists of two specific projects - the first being Walking Cities, a documentary series that the Council has filmed in Mumbai and Kolkata (India), Doha, Qatar and in Canada. The next city for the series will be downtown Kingston.

Walking Cities pairs UK and international writers, enabling them to tour each others' respective cities, creating an opportunity for them to experience the city through the eyes of the host.

The second collaboration is called 'Unwritten Poems', a partnership between the British Council, the BBC and 14-18 Now (a UK organisation which runs cultural events to commemorate 100 years since World War I).


Literary collection to be developed


Unwritten Poems will commission Caribbean diaspora poets to write new poems and an essay reflecting the Caribbean's involvement in the historic war. The poems will be collected into an anthology, and will also be broadcast on BBC. This project will include bringing poets from the UK to Calabash to meet their Caribbean counterparts, appear at the festival, and conduct a capacity-building workshop for emerging poets.

Four Caribbean poets will reciprocate - travelling to the UK to give workshops and participate in a festival called Contains Strong Language, located in Hull, the UK's 2016 City of Culture.

The US Embassy has also offered its support of Calabash Lit Up, committing to social media coverage on their platforms during the festival.

Artistic director Kwame Dawes closed the evening, reiterating the tag lines of the event's founder Colin Channer - the first being 'Our goal is to be earthy, inspirational, daring and diverse.' Second, and very familiar to Calabash attendees: 'Passion is the only price of entry.'

And finally, the 'cultural mecca' is known to its advocates as 'the greatest likkle festival, in the greatest likkle district, in the greatest likkle country in the world.'