Sun | Feb 23, 2020

Kgn Book Festival sticks to biennial plan

Published:Sunday | February 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Latoya West-Blackwood, chair, Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ).
Latoya West-Blackwood, chair, Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ).

In the accustomed scheme of things, Reggae Month ends and the multiple day Kingston Book Festival begins, the throb of drum and bass succeeded by the rustling of pages.

Last year, though, the artistic cycle was broken, as the Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) did not host the Kingston Book Festival. This year, it is back in full force, running from the opening event, 'Love Affair With Literature' at the UWI, Mona, on Sunday, March 4, to the closing Kingston Book Fair at Hope Gardens on Sunday, March 11.

Latoya West-Blackwood, chair, Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) told The Sunday Gleaner, that putting the festival on hold I 2017 was a matter of ensuring sustainability. And the biennial schedule will be maintained, so after the 2018 staging the next Kingston Book Festival will be in 2020. Much of that sustainability has to do with funding, West-Blackwood saying that many cultural events try to tap into the same funding pool. It was far from ideal. So, West-Blackwood said, the BIAJ wanted to "work with funders who were willing to support the festival", but in order to do this there had to be changes.

"We had to develop," West-Blackwood said, referencing the London Book Fair as an event which is tied into location. There is, however, the matter of reaching out to the rest of the country.




"We would do some of the workshops outside of Kingston under the Kingston Book Festival brand," West-Blackwood said. With this format, although the Kingston Book Festival is staged every two years, there would still be a presence in the 'off' year.

West-Blackwood puts a budget of about $10 million to $12 million on staging the eight-day festival, with the major financial supporter being the CHASE Fund.

"Without CHASE, we would not be able to have events open to the public like the Book Fair, on the scale that we are going to," West-Blackwood said.

Among the events between 'Love Affair With Literature' and the Book Fair, are the Launch of National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) Exhibition - Kingston 145, described as "a curated look at the history of Kingston through books, rare photographs, maps and other archived materials". This takes place on Tuesday, March 6, as does Christian Booksellers' Night, later that day. A presentation on Rights and Permissions is among a slate of discussions on Wednesday, March 7. The following day, 'Write to Survive', described as "half-day storytelling workshop for survivors of abuse and those who work to support them" and the Writing Workshop for the Deaf Community are on.

West-Blackood refers to the BIAJ's slogan, 'Fostering a Reading and Knowledge Culture', in illustrating the festival's importance to Jamaica, relating that creating critical thinkers.

"At the end of the day, it is going to be the nations which have citizens thinking at a high level which will come out on top. It is a knowledge-based era," West-Blackwood said.