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Visit the active LitNet platform at www.litnet.co.za

Boeke | Books > Kennisgewings | Notices > English

The Winelands village of Franschhoek opens its doors again for a third celebration of books and writers


If you crave a good book, or would like to listen to authors, poets, readers and publishers talking about their lives and work and passions and debating issues, then visit the third Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) which will be held from 15 - 17 May 2009.

This lively event in the Winelands village of Franschhoek has become an important part of the arts and literary calendar in South Africa and is supported by local and international book people.

The FLF was started in 2007 as a festival run along the same lines as the Cheltenham and Hay-on Wye festivals, with two main aims: to bring a broad spectrum of good and accessible South African writers together for informal discussions, and in so doing to encourage a reading culture in our valley and the broader Western Cape community.

Funds raised from the Festival are devoted to classroom libraries which supply new age-appropriate books to crèches and schools within the Franschhoek community.

The Delta Trust (associated with the Solms Delta wine farm in Franschhoek), was the founding sponsor and has been instrumental in giving this Festival prominence and profile. The Trust funds educational and community initiatives in the valley, and their CSI investment was extended to include the Franschhoek Literary Festival.

"A book can change your life. You can read yourself out of poverty" (Annari van der Merwe, publisher, Umuzi).

With this in mind and coupled with the fact that Franschhoek is an area with huge economical and social diversity, the organizers set about creating a festival that would attract readers and create a buzz of excitement about books and reading in an intimate village atmosphere.

Christopher Hope, the well-known South African author, is the Director of the Festival and inspired the idea. Together with Jenny Hobbs, (author and journalist), James Woodhouse (freelance editor) and a voluntary committee of Franschhoek residents, the festival was up and running within 9 months, aided by the supportive local community, particularly some renowned guest houses.

The FLF has continued to engage and inspire audiences, writers, publishers, reviewers and booksellers for the past two years, strongly supported by a cast of South African movers and shakers: broadcasters Jenny Crwys-Williams, Victor Dlamini, Barry Ronge. John Maytham and Karabo Kgoleng, storyteller Gcina Mhlophe (who last year opened a container children's library donated by the Exclusive Books Reading Trust), major novelists Marlene van Niekerk and Ivan Vladislavić, activist and businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele, journalists Max du Preez, Heidi Holland and Mark Gevisser, playwright Mike van Graan, classical pianist Christopher Duigan, and many others.

At last year's Festival there were 48 writers and chairpeople, six Commonwealth Writers' Prize finalists, Commonwealth personnel, many journalists and well over 2 000 visitors. The grand finale was the Commonwealth Writers' Prize ceremony attended by the Minister of Arts & Culture, Dr Pallo Jordan.

It was a truly international festival. The writers came from all over South Africa with home languages including Zulu, Xhosa and Sotho as well as English and Afrikaans, and also from the USA, Canada, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Australia. The Commonwealth judges came from Uganda, Jamaica, India, Australia, New Zealand and Johannesburg.

The choice of writers is crucial to the enjoyment of readers of all abilities, as this is not a snooty academic festival but a celebration of books. Authors ranged from Pulitzer Prize-winning Richard Ford to first novelists, crime writers to poets, serious political biographers to storytellers.

We live in an age where so much of our lives is pre-packed, synthetic and plastic, and where communication is electronic, fast and technologically driven, so this is a conscious drive to promote literacy and the love of books and writing, enhanced by classical music. It is a chance for visitors to interact with diverse cultures, a chance to walk from venue to venue in beautiful surroundings, a chance to take time to savour the written and spoken word, a time to experience "books that are carriers of civilization and ... engines of change" (Barbara Tuchman) and finally to experience "humanity in print".

The Literary Festival contributes greatly to Franschhoek's appeal as a place that nurtures creativity, a fine example of communication and commitment in a spirit of enjoyment: three days of book talk in a stroll-around village with an ambience as warm as its welcome.