LOCAL history authors, writing, for the most part, about the people and places of the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, dominated the inaugural Ramsgate Literary Festival.
Sponsored by UGU South Coast Tourism, the festival took place on September 24 and 25 at the Whale Deck overlooking beautiful Ramsgate beach. In addition to talks by authors, visitors were able to view art exhibitions, visit quirky museums, taste fine wines and indulge in tasty food.
The festival was opened by Professor Lindy Stiebel, Professor Emeritus of English Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the author of a number of books, including her latest offering Thomas Baines: Exploring Tropical Australia Appearing.
Speaking to festival-goers about KZN Literary Tourism and the South Coast Writers Trail, she stressed that what draws people to places is often the people associated with it.
“We are all sitting here because of the writers and that is what literary tourism is all about,” Stiebel said. “People will come to places for all sorts of reasons – and on the South Coast people will always come for the sea – but hopefully also because you are doing something about local writers.”
The South Coast Writers Trail is one of several literary trails in the province. It was started in 2000 when Stiebel applied for funding for a research project which aimed to build an archive of KwaZulu-Natal writers. To qualify the writers had to be born, lived, wrote about or died in the province.
“We have 150 writers up on the site but we encourage people to let us know about writers, so if you have published something in any of the 11 official languages get in touch,” Stiebel said.
The South Coast Writers Trail features authors like Prithiraj Dullay, author of Saltwater Runs in my Veins, and one of the speakers at the festival, poet Mazisi Kunene and Durban-born Victor Frank Stiebel, who designed clothing, for amongst others, Princess Margaret.
“Literary tourism doesn’t have to be highbrow, so push your writers and their books and encourage people to read them,” Stiebel said.
Vicky Wentzel, of Wozani Africa Events, who helped organise the event said: “This years inaugural festival was incredibly well supported and enjoyed by all. The Ramsgate Whale Deck proved to be the perfect venue and the support we received from the tourism committee as well as Ramsgate Conservancy was heartwarming.”
Stiebel was also impressed with the event, saying: “Festivals are the way to go and may this one prosper. I am very proud to have been at the first one.”
Speakers at the inaugural event included: teacher, Ruth Fifield, author of The Postmaster’s Mistress, based on the love story of Elna Jennings (94) who lived in Port Edward; Doreen Gaze, a local art gallery owner, who will be presented her book Ramsgate Recollections; Libby Cochrane, author of three books, her latest being Southbroom Remembering Yesteryear; Ron Lock, who launched his book Tales of the Old East Coast; Bongi Malishe, who presented the book You are Wired to Win; Sarah Unsworth, author of the children’s novel Leaving Essenwood – Simon’s Story; Anette Brink, author of Dans Met Die Jakkals; Prof. Clive Dennison, author of Footprints in Paradise; and Duncan Dubois, author of Sugar and Settlers: A History of the Natal South Coast 1850-1910, a regional study of the South Coast during the colonial era is now available.
Another popular talk was delivered by Pieter de Bruin, who shared his experience of e-publishing with festival-goers. “E-book publishing has opened a new world to writers … In the past if I wrote a book I didn’t know what to do with it, but now, with e-books, you can publish something and it costs you nothing,” he said.
“I think it’s great because now people with interesting stories can write them down. If those stories are not written then they will be lost.”
Plans are already underway for next year’s festival, which will take place on September 24 and 25 2016.