Open Book Festival 2018: An interview with Frankie Murrey

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A packed foyer at the Fugard Theatre during The Open Book Festival 2018 (Photo credit: Retha Ferguson)

Frankie Murrey, the organiser of the Open Book Festival, discusses this year’s event with Naomi Meyer.

Dear Frankie! The Open Book Festival has just kicked off! Please could you mention a few highlights on this year's festival?

As always we have a wide selection of events to choose from, with discussions about everything from politics to personal journeys, with over 120 local and international authors. There’s fun-filled Writersports, our #coreatePOETICA programme, Comics Fest and more.

Which South African authors can we look forward to this year? New and established faces?

Just a handful: come and join Sorry, not sorry author Haji Dawjee to discuss this revealing experience of moving through post-apartheid South Africa as a woman of colour. Pumla Gqola joins us again. Her book Reflecting rogue was the best-selling title at last year’s festival. Nozizwe Jele has recently released her new novel, The ones with purpose. Happiness is a four-letter word was Jele’s debut novel and won the Best First Book category (Africa region) in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize 2011, as well as the 2011 M-Net Literary Award in the film category.

Look out for new writers such as Siya Khumalo, whose debut memoir, You have to be gay to know God, is a powerful book dealing with gay identity. In Becoming him, Landa Mabenge explores his own journey that includes being the first transgender man in South Africa to successfully force a medical aid to pay for his surgery.

And how about international authors?

Jonas Bonnier joins us from Sweden to talk about his book The helicopter heist; Canadian cartoonist and animator Guy Delisle, author of Hostage; Nicole Dennis-Benn, author of Here comes the sun. Or catch Argentinean author Mariana Enriquez (Things we lost in the fire), Adam Smyer (Knucklehead) or graphic novelist Mariko Tamaki, who writes for Marvel and DC Comics.

Photo credit: Retha Ferguson

Are there any hot topics or discussions on the programme this year? 

The festival has become known for its focus on political and societal topics, and events will include discussions around the 2019 elections, a look at whether our laws hinder or help us, and the future of the media.

Please tell us about the Comic Fest and the youth programme this year?

The popular Comics Fest takes place on 8 and 9 September – there are live drawings,  workshops, discussions and demonstrations, as well as a host of exciting exhibitors in the Comics Fest Marketplace. Don’t miss Dusanka Stojakovic of New Africa Books talking about what she looks for in order to publish a comic book. Icinori, aka Mayumi Otero and Raphael Urwiller, are a French duo whose collaborative efforts have seen them illustrate, design, print and publish works across a range of mediums. They have been commissioned by Le Monde, New York Times, Canal + and Wired, among others. They join us for three events.

Younger visitors will feel welcomed at the festival with a range of exciting activities, including story time at Central Library, Origami demo sessions and a workshop for teens to “Create your own character”.

A workshop at the A4 Arts Foundation as part of Open Book Festival 2018 (photo credit: Open Book Festival)

You have to pay the authors, who also need the money. You have to pay the venue. You want as many people to be there as possible. Is it expensive to attend the festival – what are the costs, and how much do the tickets cost?

We make the festival as accessible as possible and there are a number of free events. Most events cost R45, ranging up to R180 for the supper events. Day passes (which provide one-ticket access to six events per day) are R150 and Festival passes (5-day passes with one-ticket access to six events per day) cost R600. 

Anything practical festivalgoers should know about?

Plan your diary and make a morning, afternoon or day of it! There is a delicious selection of food on offer from the Fugard Theatre bar and Food Jams who are on site, the best freshly brewed coffee from the Department of Coffee, and a wide range of fine wines and drinks. Every event (including the free ones) needs a ticket for access and events do sell out, so book now at Webtickets!

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