I was going to write a blogpost about the Kingsmead Book Fair and my memories of it. Then I went and checked and guess what? I already wrote that last year. You can read it HERE. Yes, Covid brain is a thing. Also we are living in Groundhog Day, we’re reliving the same day over and over again.
*runs screaming down the street*
Thanks god for books and TV shows. They have provided such a welcome escape from the sadness and the dreary sameness of it all. But enough of me whining and back to…
Yes, the Kingsmead Book Fair is happening! I have to say that I absolutely take my hat off to the curators for not throwing their hands up and saying “Well, what’s the bloody point?” But going ahead with a virtual book fair. Because, yes, it might not be the same, you will have to drink coffee and swill Porcupine Ridge in the comfort of your own homes but it’s a helluva lot better than nothing and there are some very cool panels to attend.
What were the difficulties of taking the Fair online?
ALEX: The biggest challenge was finding the right events partner who could do what we wanted by running concurrent sessions and giving the Fair a similar feel to the in-person event. The programme wasn’t so much a difficulty but it was so hard to trim the programme to a size that could hold people’s attention while still giving the opportunity to the many incredible authors we would have liked to have included. We feel we have, hopefully, included something for everyone! There is always the concern that people are a little Zoom-zausted (ha! Excellent term), but we really encourage people to attend.
CORINNE: The children’s and teen programme has been growing in popularity each year and we all love the energy and excitement of a live programme. All the classrooms and walkways are bustling with little people listening to stories, running around buying books and yummy things to eat and generally creating a happy vibe around books and reading that fulfils our ultimate aim. It was daunting to re-imagine this space online, with no idea how successful it would be. Luckily, after a year of Covid, we are used to navigating online lessons and children accept this platform easily. We are encouraging pyjama-wearing, hot-chocolate drinking, bed-snuggling reading sessions! This is a fun morning to spend at home in the company of books and authors.
What are some of the advantages?
ALEX: The advantages are availability of authors and people not having to travel to attend the festival, I think we only had one decline to an invitation across the entire programme! We had an incredible response from authors, we are very lucky. The costs to run the event are much lower but we will miss the vibe this year, it is sad to think that I won’t get to meet and interact with any of our participants.
The hugest advantage is that anyone, anywhere in the country – or the world even – could attend this year’s event, and do it all from the comfort of your home. This year the price of the ticket (R250 for adults and R100 for kids) gives you access to the entire programme for the day and access to the recorded sessions for two days thereafter, so you could, in essence watch every session! You can really immerse yourself in literature for the weekend.
CORINNE: The advantage of online is that we could secure authors who may not have been able to travel to South Africa, such as Soman Chainani, bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series. He’s going to share all the latest news on the Netflix series of his books, currently being filmed in Northern Ireland.
We can also potentially reach a much larger audience, as we can market to schools across the country and the sessions can be shared with a more diverse audience. With the low children’s literacy levels in South Africa we are always looking at ways to make books more accessible for all children. The lesson in this time is that there are many ways we can achieve this and we will look at recording future sessions to share with other disadvantaged schools.
Tell us about some of the offerings for this year’s festival?
ALEX: Our adult programme is very proudly African this year, we have only South African/African authors which ties in so beautifully with Africa Day which is celebrated on 25 May. We have some brilliant discussions lined up on a number of interesting topics from business to literature, politics and whistle blowers.
Quite a coup is the session with Elizabeth Nyamayaro, her session will be pre-recorded due to the time difference in the States where she is based however it is still sure to be an excellent session. It may be a smaller programme (check it out here) but it is certainly packed full of powerhouse authors.
CORINNE: I’m looking forward to all the sessions, with personal highlights being the live (online) snakes with Johan Marais, Dr Judy Dlamini and Lebohang Masango’s inspiring Grow to be Great, bestselling UK author Chrisptopher Lloyd’s family quiz, an illustration workshop with Rob Biddulph of #Draw with Rob – the phenomenally successful online drawing sessions, the ever popular Jaco Jacobs, a deep discussion of teen relationships and young love with Sally Partridge and psychologist Pam Tudin… I could go on – they are all excellent. With five different times slots from 9 in the morning to 1pm, most age groups will find a session that grabs them. Have a look at the programme here and plan your morning.
Sounds FABULOUS so please do support the book fair. You can buy tickets here.
Book recommendations: Go Away Birds. I LOVED this debut novel by Michelle Edwards. Thank you, Amy Heydenrych for the recommendation and to Modjaji for my copy. It’s just a great story about Karoo-Skye, (her mother is a hippie) and her journey to find herself after she is mugged and then viciously trolled on social media. With her business and marriage on the brink of collapse (her inlaws are SOMETHING ELSE), she returns home. It’s beautifully told and deliciously evocative and the food she described had my mouth watering. I will be definitely purchasing this as a gift (instead of taking wine and chocs to dinners or get-togethers with friends, I take books). I highly recommend it.
Me *going in for the hug*: We’ve both had it so we can kiss with tongue!
Eva *nodding*: We can lick each other all over.
I knew then that I would love her and before anyone writes in and tells me not to lick anybody, PLEASE DO NOT STRESS, we did not kiss with tongue or lick each other all over but we did have a wonderful breakfast at the Service Station and Eva told me a little about her book Christine which is partly set in Melville.
It sounds fascinating and by buying a copy of the book you can win a trip to Amsterdam. Just take a pic of your till slip and mail it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can catch Eva at #KBF21. She’s on a divine panel with Angela Makholwa and Schim AKA Gail Schimmel and they will be in convo with Karabo Kgoleng. Did I mention that you should go and buy tickets to KBF? Go do it now. Happy reading! xxx