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Friday, 25 May 2007

Jamaica journal, part 2

The week in Kingston has flown--lunches, meetings, visits to the National Gallery and to bookshops, another dinner party with the Commonwealth Writers' Prizes people, a stroll around Mona campus to see the University Chapel and Ronald Moody's Savacou sculpture--and now I'm down in Treasure Beach, four hours drive from Kingston on Jamaica's south-west coast, where the Calabash International Literary Festival opens this evening (full schedule here).

The last time I came to Calabash--three years ago--I fell ill just before I left Kingston, and arrived in Treasure Beach with a fever and a runny nose, dizzy with decongestants, and suffering an allergic reaction to the antibiotics I insisted on being prescribed. I was also staying many miles out of the way in Black River, at an unspeakably bad hotel (one word: cockroaches). I didn't have much fun, couldn't take in very much of the Calabash programme, and in the end I returned to Kingston early, defeated.

I'm determined to have a better time this year, and things are off to a good start so far. I'm staying with my friends Annie and Georgia plus a few of Annie's friends in a lovely little villa called Lyric, looking over Calabash Bay, a couple minutes' walk from Jake's, the Calabash Festival venue.

But I'm not here for a beach weekend, tempting though the thought may be. The Calabash programme this year includes appearances by Michael Ondaatje, Caryl Phillips, Maryse Condé, Kendel Hippolyte, and another dozen or so writers, including most of the regional winners of the Commonwealth Writers' Prizes. The CRB will be available at the official Calabash bookshop, and I'll be seeking out CRB contributors, present and possible future. I'll also be reporting fairly regularly on the various events in the programme--not quite live-blogging, but close enough. So keep an eye on Antilles, dear readers, for Calabash updates, starting tonight.

calabash podium

The podium and stage at Jake's in Treasure Beach, with the Caribbean Sea for a backdrop; awaiting three days' worth of fiction, poetry, drama, and music, plus the announcement of the Commonwealth Writers' Prizes

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