The Knysna Literary Festival happened from 19 – 24 March. When Lori and I offered to help Ling and Sasha a year earlier, I had little idea that it was going to be such a fun-filled and emotional roller coaster of a ride. Emotional because I visited a number of rural schools over some months to encourage the head masters and teachers and, in turn, their students to enter the Young Writers competition which is an integral part of the Literary Festival. These schools have no funding and really struggle with literacy and I quickly discovered that a school is only as good as its Head and teachers. I became very attached to Karatara Primary which has the most amazing staff and a wonderful vibe and I was quite overwhelmed when this little school submitted 36 entries out of 185 and then proceeded to win 1st and 2nd places in the Afrikaans Poetry section. It was really unfortunate that all the participants could not attend a performance of Betti and the Yeti (a delightful musical production for children) because of transport costs, but the winners and their teacher and parents attended the awards ceremony at which Shaka Sisulu was the guest speaker and who was quite brilliant with the children.
But on to the Festival which began with the ever popular Deon Meyer on the Friday and finished with Rob Caskie’s talk on Shackleton at Featherbed on Sunday morning. I understand that Walmer Exclusive Books who offered all the authors’ books throughout the Festival, sold the most number of an authors books ever at Deon’s book signing at the end of his talk. We were also privileged to see the first excerpt of his forte into film production. Probably because I was not expecting to enjoy it, was the excellent and thought provoking Political Panel discussion with Shaka Sisulu and Adriaan Basson, chaired by Ivo Vegter at Simola. Then back we whizzed to Conrad Pezula for the first of Rob Caskie’s inimitable talks on Rorke’s Drift. On Saturday morning Stan Trollip chaired a session at The Turbine with authors McIntosh Polela and Rahla Xenopoulos. Diverse authors both and very entertaining. And at lunchtime that day our local Knysna authors (Duncan de Waal amongst them) were to be found sipping wine and meeting the locals at The Mall.
We all loved the logistical nightmare of the now very popular Delicious Word Journey through Pezula Private Estate in which we met authors Riaan Manser, Sarah Graham and Adriaan Basson in beautiful homes and enjoyed three courses of delicious Hungry Head food and Jane Simon sponsored wines which we enjoyed throughout the Festival.
The grand finale before Ivo Vegters environmental film on Sunday afternoon was Rob Caskie’s riveting talk on The Shackleton Expedition at Featherbed to which we journeyed on the Paddle Steamer in glorious weather. Every one of the 1800 tickets was sold. We had enormous fun and lots of laughs and best of all our local charities EPAP and TSIBA Eden Campus Scholarship Programme were the grateful beneficiaries of a large portion of the profits. The authors all loved being in Knysna and we loved hosting them. In Deon Meyer’s words “It was a pleasure and a privilege to be part of this” and Lori and I concur. Huge accolades to Ling Dobson of Pam Golding and Sasha Campbell who made it happen in such style and if you did not attend this time be sure to join us for more of the same in March 2014.