Milk tart, murder and literary excellence at Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival

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The Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival will be held in Cradock from 16 to 21 June 2022. Melt Myburgh spoke to organisers Lisa Antrobus-Ker and Melina Smit about the fun and food visitors can look forward to.

Melina Smit and Lisa Antrobus-Ker (Photo’s: SKWF)

A pitch-perfect Karoo line-up at South Africa’s favourite little literary festival in the middle of the world

The main programme is on Friday 17 and Saturday 18 June. Visitors can kuier at the fireside with some of South Africa’s best writers at the Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival. Etienne van Heerden and the translator of his novel Die biblioteek aan die einde van die wêreld, Henrietta Rose-Innes, will be present; Sally Andrew and Tony Jackman will entertain audiences during a high tea, celebrating the recent release of Sally’s The milk tart murders; Martin Welz will share anecdotes and insights about his experiences as editor of Noseweek.

Sally Andrew, author of The milk tart murders (Photo: Penguin Random House SA)

Singer Des Lindberg, who with wife Dawn made up South Africa’s favourite singing duo, will make a special guest appearance. Dawn passed away in December 2020. In his book Every day is an opening night, Des lifts the veil on his and Dawn’s partnership. In Cradock, he will be in conversation with Tony Jackman. Tony, the editor of Daily Maverick’s “TGI food” and author of Foodstuff, will dish up some of his favourite recipes.

Izak de Vries, Dean Allen, Janet Kingwill, Dorothy de Kok, Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit will complement the strong cast of Eastern Cape talent featured at the festival. Starting on Youth Day, storytellers in prose, poetry, fiction, film, music, performance and visual art will make new connections as festivalgoers shift between four intimate venues.

A pop-up arts hub on the historic Cross Street, where Olive Schreiner and her family lived, will entice visitors to walk through history while they enjoy the art.

The programme is designed to embrace everyone in the bigger narrative.

Cradock – where the skies remain blue

We are extremely blessed that we have a line-up of friends who enjoy sharing their new releases and their ideas, and introducing us to their friends and what they are up to. Putting together the festival programme is like stitching together a myriad of fabulously different crochet squares into a blanket. And that is what we do – ensuring that the blanket covers and enfolds the spirit of the Karoo and Olive Schreiner.

We have made lasting friendships over the past few years since the inception of our “little literary festival”. One of our visitors sent us a post-festival email last year:

“Love is creativity in action.” So thank you again. You are doing the work of life and of love on earth. And that’s a rich project.

Visitors can look forward to being warmly welcomed into the fold of other lovers of literature, of greater and smaller repute. We are totally informal here in the Karoo, and our programme is a guideline for both those on-stage and those off-stage, so we are sometimes as astonished as our visitors with what is brewed up at our festival.

Our advice to city-dwellers: leave the grey skies of the city in the winter and escape to the sunshine of the Karoo, where, despite chilly temperatures, the skies remain blue.

Lovers of good literature enjoy good food

We are also the organisers of the Karoo Food Festival, so showcasing our Karoo ingredients, and our cooks and chefs and farmers, is important to us.

But we have made it our mission to celebrate homemade fusion food in all we present. Cradock has residents from Italy, China, Pakistan, Cape Town and Joburg, to name a few places, so Karoo sushi, pap balls (they really are yummy!), lamb ragu tagliatelle, breakfast samosas and then, of course, melktert are some titbits our visitors can look forward to.

Developing voices sharing a couch with established authors

We have structured the festival in such a way that younger talent and more established talent share the stage, whether it is as part of a couch conversation, a talk or a performance art piece. With “younger talent”, we are not alluding only to age. For example, Penny, a local Cradock resident, is as yet an undiscovered writer of witty Afrikaans stories who flew under the radar for most of her 60 years. She will feature on this year’s programme.

Lucky Adams, a local folk legend, Comrades Marathon grandmaster and our town’s postman extraordinaire, will share the stage with Elona Rasmeni, a 20-something youngster with a story (and a published book), whose journey is so inspiring that we are bringing him back for a second year. Our ladies from Makhanda (formerly known as Grahamstown) – two of them from Amazwi – are teaming up with an opera singing teacher from a school on the other side of Umtata.

Amazwi will be visiting ten schools in two days, introducing their BookDash project and sharing their delightful books in e-format.

A vision shared: Amazwi and the AVBOB Poetry Project

The Schreiner House Museum in Cradock is a satellite of Amazwi, the festival’s founding sponsor. The museum pays homage to Olive Schreiner’s work through exhibitions and various educational programmes. And therein lie our common ground and shared vision: raising consciousness about freedom of expression and of artistic creativity and non-discrimination in our immediate community.

We are very excited to enjoy the generous ongoing involvement support of The AVBOB Poetry Project for our vision of giving young people a confident voice. To reach the maximum number of young people we invest in training educators in the fusion of creative writing and the other expressive arts.

AVBOB’s CEO, Carl van der Riet, remarked recently, “Our commitment to community development and socio-economic support – including our involvement in important community events such as the SKWF – is at the heart of all that we do. We are particularly passionate about education and literacy for learners during their formative years.”

The AVBOB Poetry Project has been instrumental in footprinting that mission of inclusivity and empowerment – also much further afield than just Cradock – through engaging with learners and, in recent years, focusing efforts on poetry and arts fusion workshops for creative arts and life skills educators in the whole district.

To give you an idea, this year’s two-day workshop will be involving 40 educators, and the impact of that is just tremendous: cascading down to a potential 2 000 learners, giving them an unfettered and confident voice to unleash their creative potential.

Peace of mind: Basil Mills’s snakes will stay at home this year

Basil’s serpents are ensconced in their warm nests on his farm outside Grahamstown. We did not feel like waking them up in winter; you know how ornery they can get when woken up from a four-week sleep.

The very talented Basil, also representing Amazwi, will be present at the festival’s Cross Street Fusion Arts Hub, literally across the road from Schreiner House. Both artist and storyteller, he has a deep and lasting love for the stories, art and way of life of the indigenous people from the Karoo, which he will be showcasing, or rather “storyboarding”, at the festival.

Where to stay

The Tuishuise & Victoria Manor Hotel offers festivalgoers a truly authentic vintage Karoo feel – we pride ourselves in making sure our guests are spoilt rotten. Visitors can spend a winter weekend at Die Tuishuise & Victoria Manor at a special rate of R555 per person per night, including breakfast. Alternatively, people can stay over for any two consecutive nights at R900 per person – breakfast included, of course!

Cradock’s Victoria Manor Hotel (Photo:

Visit or email for bookings, or phone 048 881 1650.

Click here to browse through this year’s festival programme.

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