The Calabash experience (2014)


What: Calabash International Literary Festival (For more information, click here)

Where: Jake’s; Treasure Beach, St. Elizabeth

When:  May 30 – June 1

In 2001, three great minds- Colin Channer, Kwame Dawes, and Justine Henzell – conceptualized a one of a kind literary festival to be hosted in Jamaica, with a global reach. The festival, which was held annually, quickly attracted book enthusiasts, literary minds and the average Joe who was searching for another means of relaxation/ entertainment on the weekend.  Despite its success, the 10 year old literary event had not been held for a number of years due to a few rough patches, which has resulted in the festival now being staged once every two years .

It was our first time going to Calabash, we have been hearing about it for years but were always a little too late in making the decision t go. We wondered why an event like this had to be a three-day event but after taking a look at the schedule, you need not ask why. All these great authors, poets, story tellers, in one place … at the same time.       Heaven


And this was just the schedule for Saturday

Having booked our spaces on the Knutsford Express shuttle, we woke up Saturday morning to catch the 7:30 bus to Calabash. Quite a few persons had the same idea and two full tour buses made their way down to Treasure Beach at ungodly hours on a Saturday morning. 

Did we mention it was also our first time taking the Knutsford? It was great. It’s pretty much the modern version of taking an old country bus  … but with plush seats, air conditioning, bathroom facilities, music and movies. So, maybe not like an old country bus then, but travelling on local roads allowed for us to take in the Jamaica’s breathtaking beauty.

We finally got to St. Elizabeth after a few hours of reading, watching a movie, listening to music and of course sleeping. We arrived in time to catch the first 5 presenters and took our space at the back of the already crowded tent.


The experience was absolutely amazing. It left us asking ourselves why we had waited this long to be attend. Sitting under the tent, sitting to the side of the tent in the cool breeze under partly sunny skies, sitting at the wooden dock nearby, sitting on sheets and picnic chairs on the lawns – just some of the options provided for your ultimate relaxation while listening to rhythmic beats, melodious voices – the sounds of words becoming stories.


The Stage.

The view alone could be your reason for attending.

We don’t mean to be biased but our two favourite presenters on the day were Zadie Smith (a UK based author who is of Jamaican parentage, a matter of fact her mother is from St. Elizabeth) and Salman Rushdie (the controversial author of the Satanic Verses).


Author, Zadie Smith (she’s also a pretty awesome story teller)


Sir Salmon Rushdie, addressing the crowd (and sharing an excerpt from one of his books) before his Q&A session

However, in addition to these two highlights (for us at least)  we were graced in presence and speech by Jamaica’s newest Poet Laureate, Prof. Mervyn Morris. In short, everyone was good, every presentation was good… everything was good. After the first few sessions there was a break for lunch and we took the time to take a trip down to the beach, which was just a stone’s throw from the Calabash stage (literally).




A few “Barbie-fried chicken with rice and peas” lunches  and a Fully-Loaded pizza later saw us entering the evening sessions. By this time the sunset stole the attention from the presenters:



We stayed for a few more presentations; the Family Affair  presentation by Mukoma, Wanjika and Ngugi was especially interesting. We had to leave the festivities to catch our bus back into Kingston at 9 pm; but it was a day well spent.


What we loved the most:

  • Books were available for purchase on the spot
  • There was time allotted for each author to sign books after their presentation.
  • How free and relaxing everything was. Everything just had a relaxed air (we were just going with the flow)
  • The layout of the venue was perfect
  • The food (yes, by now you should know we’re huge foodies)


DID WE MENTION THAT THERE IS NO ENTRY FEE FOR CALABASH? “Passion is the only price you pay to enter”


See you at Calabash in 2016! 


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