Joy of Books: A new literary festival in East London

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There is a brand new literary festival in the Eastern Cape. The first Joy of Books Festival will be staged in East London on 16 and 17 July 2022.

More details, including a link to ticket sales, are available on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/joybookfestival.

The organising team consists of Jen Bryson Moorcroft, Claire Macdonald and Audette Wander. Izak de Vries spoke to Moorcroft.

Hello Jen, lovely to hear about a new book festival! And it is great news for the Eastern Cape. This is the first time the festival is being held, but it seems to me that the concept behind the joy of books, which is donating books to schools, has been going for a while. Please provide some background?

Joy of Books is a legacy project to remember those we lost in the last few years. The person it was named for, Joy Taylor, was a much-loved mom, sister, aunt and grandmother.

Joy Taylor loved books and children, and when she passed away we wanted to do something positive to allow her name to live on through her passions. The Joy of Books Festival will donate books to underprivileged schools in East London in the memory of those we lost.

Books can change lives and have such a positive impact through the knowledge and enjoyment they give, and we want to remember those we loved through this hope-filled and upbeat project.

The aim of the festival is to bring people who love reading, books and storytelling together. We aim to create a positive space to celebrate all things literary, to encourage and inspire others to share their passion and creativity. The event is also a fundraiser, and money raised will buy books that will be donated to underprivileged and rural schools in memory of those who we lost in 2021. Books can change lives – they educate, inspire and challenge people and we want everyone to have as much access as possible to books.

I have spotted names like Lori-Ann Preston. Gosh, I love her Thabo books! And she sells really well in South Africa. But then, you are also creating a platform for brand new writers, is that correct? Please explain how the programme has been put together – I’d like to know more about Hayibo!, a prose and poetry collection you are launching?

We love Lori-Ann too! We have some established writers sharing and also some new writers!

We have 34 mostly local writers who have contributed to Hayibo!. It is self-published with Harry's Printers. There are short stories, creative non-fiction pieces as well as poetry pieces. The book was inspired by the connection between writers during lockdown. Emonti Creative Circle (our local creative writing society) could no longer meet in person and started having online meetings, thus meeting other writers from South Africa and abroad. We put together this story collection to bring hope through creativity, and dedicated it to those we had lost in the last few years. The stories brought us together and reflect authentic local culture, humour and imagination. We hope others will also find encouragement in our creative journey.

I was intrigued to read about immersive theatre shows. What is that and how will  Treasure Island in the Garden and Tangled Fairytales  keep young and old entertained, as you have promised on Facebook?

Immersive theatre is a unique type of theatre where the audience plays a vital role in the story. They will get to participate in various ways to help the characters and story progress. In this way, immersive theatre makes individual audience members feel as if they have had a uniquely personal experience, that they are not just part of the crowd.

We are using immersive theatre as a way of bringing stories to life in an interactive way and also allowing kids (and adults!) to climb into the story in a practical and physical act.

These two shows are family friendly and suitable for children of all ages. We think many adults, too, will enjoy the comedy and interactive shows.

We chose various classics from literature to adapt: Treasure Island with all its piratey fun, and Tangled Fairytales, a uniquely scrambled Cinderella, Rapunzel and The Princess and the Frog to appeal to the inner prince or princess.

The two shows will run throughout the two-day festival on the hour and half-hour and audience members can choose to take part in the story as much or as little as they feel comfortable with.

This is about more than just books, isn’t it? Each adult may have a glass of wine or a mocktail, the kids can have juice, and there will be something more substantial for the stomach too?

Yes, there are drinks and snacks included in the ticketing price and there are also various stalls and a market outside the museum, so that patrons can eat and drink while enjoying a day of culture, literature and fun.

I love museums and I enjoy seeing them being used. What is the relationship between the festival and the museum?

We are very grateful to be working collaboratively with the East London Museum. The museum will also be open to the public for the duration of the festival at a rate of R15 per ticket. We will be using some of the lovely spaces, such as outside the museum, the Latimer Hall and the gardens for various parts of our event.

Apart from the Facebook page, how do ordinary people get involved?

Please do not hesitate to contact me on:

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