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Welcome back Calabash

Published:Sunday | April 1, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

The end was unexpected and many were disappointed. Fortunately, the reason for that disappointment has not lasted. Calabash International Literary Festival will be making its return in May under the theme 'Jubilation! 50'.

Last year, Kwame Dawes, programming director of the festival, disclosed that the event had come to an end after hitting its 10-year mark. He hinted that the decision to end the festival was an economic one.

A little more than a year later, it is being announced that the event will return in a couple months with 'Jubilation! 50' representing the event's return to the world literary scene.

"We are so happy to be back to celebrate Jamaica 50 in 2012 and to have a special staging of Calabash," said Justine Henzell, producer of the festival.

In the interview last year, Dawes noted that plans were in place to host a big event to celebrate Jamaica's 50th year of Independence.

Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, Henzell noted that this was one of the reasons the event will make its return. She says Jamaica's literary arts needs to be part of any celebration of this nature.

Call for return

In addition, she said, "It was sorely missed last year. People have been asking us to bring it back."

She, however, could not confirm whether or not the festival would continue after 'Jubilation! 50'.

Although last year's cancellation was unexpected, Henzell does not believe people will be deterred from attending. Instead, she believes they will attend because they have been yearning for its return.

"I would think that people missed it so much last year that they would be even more eager to come out this year. We are expecting 3,000 to 5,000 people over the weekend," she said of the event that was started by Colin Channer in 2001.

The event will again be held at Jake's Resort in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, from May 25 to 27. Henzell said special emphasis will be placed on writers in the Jamaican diaspora.

Some of those perople are Kerry Young, Sadie and Melissa Jones, Colin Grant, Shara McCallum, Alecia McKenzie, Patricia McKenzie, Marcia Douglas, and Claudia Rankine.

Perfect timing

Since lovers of the literary arts are not able to see these people on a regular basis, or have never seen them on the local stage, "Jamaica 50 seemed like the perfect time to bring them home," Henzell said.

Stressing that Calabash is truly an international festival, she noted Jamaican performers living in the island and in the diaspora will be joined by writers from Africa, United Kingdom and the United States.

"It is going to be an incredible programme over the three days and a real celebration of Jamaica and its literary prowess," she told The Sunday Gleaner, noting that the Calabash Acoustic Ensemble and other performers will provide music on the final day of the festival.

"It will be bigger and better than ever and it will be worthy of the special anniversary."

While she is excited and raring to go, Henzell admitted that sponsorship is still a sore point but there have been some improvements.

"It is always a challenge but we are being endorsed by Jamaica Tourist Board and we are an official Jamaica 50 event. We have got some private-sector support as well," she said.

Henzell added that a few lead-up events will be held, but due to budget constraints there will not be a "splashy" launch.

www.jamaica-gleaner.com