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Saturday, May 23, 2009


FLF blessed by book weather and good ticket sales.

The recent Franschhoek Literary Festival (FLF) saw ticket sales up by approximately 50%, and about 3,000 visitors despite the pouring rain. “And what a weekend it was!,” says the marketing team. “Howling wind and 100mm of rain, swiftly-running gutters, mud everywhere – aptly renamed “book weather”.

“There were 42 events and 56 writers, poets and chair people. Over 3,400 tickets were sold, with approximately 1 000 more tickets sold than last year. A bevy of publishers watched, listened and held candlelit dinners. Journalists clamoured for media seats. Cameras flashed everywhere.”

In three short years the FLF has grown into a respected celebration of books and writers with an international reputation. This is made possible by a large annual donation by the Delta Trust, the generosity of local guest house owners who give accommodation for the visiting writers, a huge amount of hard work by the FLF Committee, and a squad of willing volunteers over the weekend.

“We are delighted with the results achieved this year and encouraged by the support that the authors and writers give us”, said Jenny Hobbs author and organiser.

“What an extraordinary four days I had in Franschhoek,” said Jenny Crwys-Williams of 702 Radio. “When I spoke to locals, they were all quite proprietary and proud about the Festival. They’d watched it grow and could see the advantages to having it for the village. Just wonderful and serious brownie points to everyone concerned.”

Some of the highlights of a weekend of spirited debates included the lively discussion in the packed School Hall with charismatic Vikas Swarup, author of Q&A that became the Oscar grabbing movie, Slumdog Millionaire, a rush on the ticket sales table when Zapiro joined the programme line-up, and a hint that André P. Brink’s next book might be set partly in Franschhoek.

The first South African Wine Writers Prize, including a unique “certificate” (artwork) designed by Pippa Skotnes, was handed over to Joanne Gibson, the winner. Many of the authors visited local schools on the Friday morning to do writing workshops; others visited the local prison.

“From the first night at La Brasserie, when I had to pinch myself looking around at the cast of literary stars, to the hilarious last bus trip with Lebo Mashile in fine voice, it was brilliant – unquestionably the highlight of the SA literary year. It was an absolute privilege to be part of it,” said literary journalist Michele Magwood.

Planning begins shortly after each festival ends with decisions being made about which writers to ask the following year, based on information from publishers about forthcoming books. The accent is on the enjoyment and encouragement of reading, and the festival seeks to include a broad spectrum of good approachable writers with recently published books in the programme.

With its growing reputation, the FLF is approaching additional donors to be able to ask more writers and attract young people from diverse backgrounds – though does not intend to get too much bigger, because this is a village festival with a unique character.

“We have had great feedback on the selection of authors and the programme. The festival is a real literary landmark, and such a good thing for the whole of Franschhoek,” said Jenny Prinsloo, CEO of Franschhoek Tourism.

Susan Huxter of Le Quartier Français, who heads the list of donors who accommodate visiting authors, said: “Franschhoek really benefits from the festival across the board.”

The long-term goals of the FLF are to excite children about reading and writing, and to generate funds for a new community library. To date, R250,000 has been raised through ticket sales and donations (R100,000 from the Commonwealth Foundation last year), more than half of which has been spent on new books housed in box libraries in local classrooms and book trunks in crèches.

“It really was a world class event,” said Barry Phillips, editor of the local newspaper, Franschhoek Tatler. “It became a destination where people stayed rather than a destination for day trippers.”

The next Franschhoek Literary Festival is planned for May 14 to 16, 2010.