Arts & Culture

Channer leaves Calabash

Festival to be biennial

BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnsonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 10, 2013    

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COLIN Channer, Calabash Literary Festival co-founder, has re-signed from that organisation with immediate effect.

With his resignation comes word the festival -- which was launched in 2001 in rustic Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth -- will now be biennial.

The next staging is set for 2014. Justine Henzell, Calabash board member, says the decision to hold the event every other year was taken prior to Channer's resignation.

She stresses that there was no disagreement or angst between Channer and the organising committee of the literary festival. Henzell says his resignation comes as no surprise.

"Calabash will always have the benefit of Channer's input," she noted.

In a letter to members of the board, Channer severed his official ties with the event.

"As you know, I brought my active tenure to a close at the end of 2010. Since then, two years have gone by. It is now time for me to end my tenure completely and appreciate your efforts from afar. This letter serves as my resignation from the Calabash International Literary Festival Trust and all its related organisations, in all capacities, with immediate effect."

Channer adds: "I've ex-perienced our many successes from close range. In addition to the annual gathering of writers to read before thousands in Treasure Beach each year at the end of May, I've experienced what it takes to publish two major anthologies, six chapbooks of poetry, and to return three important classics of Caribbean literature to a life in print."

Channer traced the festival's development, noting how Calabash had become a game changer and set the stage for similar events, not only in Jamaica but across the Caribbean region.

"None of these festivals have come close to matching our success. And this is not a boast. It is a simple truth, a truth as simple as the one on which we were built. Calabash was built as a communal space for people to publicly celebrate their private passions and love affairs with books. We have always made it clear through all our actions --including complimentary admission to all events -- that we didn't build this organisation for some people, but for all people."

He also expressed his delight in establishing a writer's workshop that has intensified the talent of over 125 writers, including Marlon James, winner of the 2010 Dayton Peace Prize in Literature, and Ishion Hutchinson, winner of the 2011 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award.

"If you should ask me to express my feelings in a single word, it would be 'joy'. The ultimate goal of leadership must never be its own survival, but to become obsolete. I am glad this time has come," he notes.

The Calabash Literary festival has attracted some major players. Among the notables who have presented at Calabash are Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott of St Lucia and Nigerian Wole Soyinka.

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