South Africa is blessed with a number of literary festivals, some big, some small.
The Midlands Literary Festival 2019 set the bar very high. It contained a spectacular line up and the quality of the talks were excellent.
The Midlands Literary Festival is one of Darryl David’s independent festivals.
Darryl had a dedicated team supporting him.
Over three days young and old were treated to authors sharing their stories at the Fern Hill Hotel in Howick.
Book early for #MidLit2020.
This year conference centre was packed beyond capacity during some of the sessions.
Friday 30 August
On Friday 30 August programmes were run to help young authors improve their work.
This was part of the Young Authors Book Initiative (YABI), facilitated by Lungile (middle) and Cuba Ikaneng (right). The couple is seen here with Darry David. A number of authors shared writings tips with the young attendees.
Exclusive books also handed out books.
Afterwards an impromptu protea fight broke out.
Laughter was part of the the entire festival.
Saturday 31 Aug
8.30 Fiona Snyckers – Lacuna
Fiona Snyckers spoke about her new novel Lacuna, a powerful critique of JM Coetzee’s Disgrace.
9.00 Julia Martin – The Blackridge House
Julia Martin writes creative non-fiction. Her latest book, The Blackridge House – A Memoir, tells the story of the author’s search to find the old wood-and-iron house where her mother Elizabeth grew up.
9.30 Fred Khumalo – Talk of the Town
Talk of the Town is Fred Kumalo’s first short story collection. It was shortlisted for the 2018 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.
10.00 Zanele Njapha – An Eye for Love
Zanele Njapha is 24 years old. She had the audience eating out of her hands as she spoke about and read from her coming-of-age romance novel An Eye for Love. It is a delightful, escapist read about a young lawyer Amanda Elizabeth Nene whose life is turned upside down by a charming man.
10.30 YABI book launch
YABI started in 2018. At #MidLit2019 a collection of the work written by the class of 2018 was released.
Each author received a copy, and festival goers were encouraged to buy two copies – one for themselves and one to be donated to a school in the Natal Midlands.
Nicky Grieshaber kept everyone dancing during the tea and lunch breaks.
11.30 Ekow Duker – Yellowbone
Ekow Duker has worked as an oil-field engineer, investment banker and corporate strategist. His current profession is in data analytics. Yellowbone is his fourth novel. It spans South Africa, Britain and Ghana. The title refers to the light-skinned Karabo, who is called a 'yellowbone'.
12.00 Siya Khumalo – You Have to be Gay to Know God
Siya Khumalo spoke about the way religion, politics, sex and culture mingle with greed and colonial religion to exclude gay people. You Have to Be Gay to Know God won the 2019 Desmond Tutu-Gerrit Brand Prize.
12.30 Steve Wimberley – Dr Grumble
Steve Wimberley is a vet. He helps animals, sometimes with alarming results. Tales of Dr Grumble is a collection of twenty of stories.
14.00 Peter Storey – I Beg to Differ
Former Methodist bishop Peter Storey’s autobiography tells the history of the South African Council of Churches in its darkest hour. I beg to differ explains how he ministered to Robert Sobukwe and Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, founded LifeLine SA and Gun Free SA, and persevered to work amidst the teargas and violence of the apartheid regime.
14.30 Hugh Bland – The Trappist Missions
Hugh Bland’s book The Trappist Missions - KwaZulu-Natal’s Forgotten Treasure provides a beautiful full-colour record of the architecture, murals, stained-glass windows and art of twenty one Trappist missions of in KwaZulu Natal.
15.00 Ralph Mathegka – Ramaphosa’s Turn
Ralph Mathekga is unassuming and dresses the part, but he is a brilliant speaker and had the audience spellbound. In his latest book Ramaphosa’s Turn: Can Cyril save South Africa? Mathekga looks at state capture, poverty and corruption.
Afterwards one of the conference goers said: “He looks like the gardener with that hat, but he is more educated than all of us together!”
15.30 Desiree Anne Martin – We Don’t Talk About This. Ever
Desiree-Anne Martin grew up in Cape Town in the 1980’s. We Don’t Talk About This. Ever tackles the darkness of abuse, addiction, sex work and self-destruction as well as her recovery and self-acceptance.
Martin is one brave warrior.
16.30 Richard Hunt – Spirit of the Drakensberg
Richard Hunt is farmer and conservationist. He loves the Drakensberg. He spent many years hiking and photographing the mountain to create his book The Spirit of the Drakensberg.
17.00 Ronnie Kasrils – Catching Tadpoles
Catching Tadpoles explains how Ronnie Kasrils, a Yeoville-born boykie with Yiddish roots, came to join the struggle against apartheid. The book shares his social, sexual and political awakening, detailing adventures with girls, rock music and life beyond the colour barrier.
Sketched by Marianne de Jager on the festival programme.
The sound desk wraps up for the night.
Sunday 1 September
8.30 Martin Prozesky – Warring Souls
Warring Souls is the first novel written by Martin Prozesky, who is best known for his academic work. It is the story of conflict between Sarah Williams, the radical Professor of Christian Ethics at the fictitious St Mark’s College near George, and Dr Gerald Meyer, the staunchly evangelical vice-chancellor.
9.00 Chris Hoare – 'Mad Mike' Hoare: The Legend
Mike Hoare was a famous soldier, leading an uprising across the Congo to crush a communist rebellion, then things went horribly wrong in the Seychelles in 1981. Mike Hoare ended up on jail for hijacking a Boeing 707. His son, Chris Hoare, spent 12 years researching and writing this authoritative and referenced biography.
9.30 Gloria Keverne – Achieving the International Bestseller Dream
Gloria Keverne left school at age 15, married at 18 and started writing immediately. A Man Cannot Cry became an international best seller.
10.00 Elana Bregin – Not Wanted on the Voyage
Elana Bregin, a Durban-based author and freelance editor, spoke about the trials and tribulations of trying to get published today and the tenacity that is needed to win through in the end. LitNet has published the speech. You can read it here.
10.30 Izak de Vries with Luke Molver, Hannes Barnard & JL Powers
Izak de Vries (left) spoke to the authors Luke Molver, Hannes Barnard (right) and JL Powers about the way they represented Africa, and more particularly parts of KwaZulu-Natal, in their work. (Photograph courtesy of the Midlands Literary Festival.) Barnard is the author of Halley se komeet, a book set in 1986, the dark days of racial segregation.
Luke Molver is a comic-book artist. His book Shaka Rising: A Legend of the Warrior Prince was named an Honour Book for Older Readers by the Children’s Africana Book Awards in the United States. He launched his second book King Shaka: Zulu Legend at the festival.
JL Powers is the author of This thing called the future and Under water, both of which were seen in South Africa for the first time at the Midlands Literary Festival.
11.30 Khaya Dlanga – These things really do happen to me
These things really do happen to me by Khaya Dlanga is a wonderfully controversial novel in which he tackles topics such as race and feminism.
12.00 Peter Church - Thrills and Spills of Crime Fiction
Peter Church spoke about writing crime fiction, like his latest novel Crackerjack.
12.30 Mogau Seshoene – The Lazy Makoti
Magau Seshoene left the corporate world and started giving cooking lessons. She went on to host a TV series and became the food editor for Sunday World. Five years later her book The Lazy Makoti’s Guide to the Kitchen has proved a roaring success in South Africa, outselling Jamie Oliver.
14.00 Sonja Kruse – The Ubuntu Girl
Sonja Kruse delivered the Ian Player Memorial lecture on Sunday afternoon.
Her book Ubuntu Girl recounts her adventure in 2009 when, inspired by a dream, she set off walking and hitchhiking carrying only a backpack, a camera, a phone and R100 in her pocket to prove that the spirit of Ubuntu is alive in South Africa. Along the way she was warmly welcomed into the homes and hearts of 150 families from 16 different cultures.
15.00 John Roff – Poems for the Nature-Hungry Soul
John Roff read poetry from Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, David Whyte, Issa, and some of his own. He also played a number of instruments, many were home made.
15.30 Erica Platter - Durban Curry: Up2Date
Erica Platter’s book Durban Curry: Up2Date tells the stories of immigrants who came from India bringing spices, seeds and recipes to South Africa.
16.00 Ashwin Desai – Rama’s Pose, Malema’s Animal Farm & Ahab’s Pursuit of the Great White
Ashwin Desai delivered a scathing political satire to end the Midlands Literary festival.
Storytelling in the chapel
On Sunday from 15.00 – 16.30 there were free storytelling sessions for kids.
Lori-Ann Preston, Michelle Sciacca, Cuba & Lungile Ikaneng, Kim Broughton, Marilyn Mills, John Roff and others read and told stories.
The young ones received gift packs from Exclusive Books.
The adults were allowed to shine in their outfits in the garden.
Memories were made.
For more photographs and stories, visit the website of the Midlands Literary Festival.