21 July 2012 by Chris Marais

The Schreiner: Karoo Writers’ Festival

Inspired by writer-activist Olive Schreiner, the annual Karoo Writers’ Festival in Cradock brings together wordsmiths, artists, raconteurs and actors from all over South Africa with a common love for the Karoo Heartland.

The famous Tuishuise on Market Street, Cradock

Cradock in the Eastern Cape Karoo is a little river town that serves the local farming community – and passing tourist trade. That’s why the roads are wide and full of dusty bakkies (pick-up trucks). There are 2 competing co-ops and the main topic of conversation normally revolves around the weather. And, of course, the price of wool.

Olive Schreiner. Picture courtesy of the Schreiner House Museum, Cradock

In the 2nd week of August, however, Cradock becomes a tad bookish and hosts the Schreiner: Karoo Writers’ Festival to honour the memory of its First Lady, activist-writer Olive Schreiner.

And the rather daunting author of Story of an African Farm would be proud. The festival (August 9 to 11) has a line-up of respected national and local literary lights. There will be book launches, jaunts around heritage sites and the award-winning Mountain Zebra National Park just outside Cradock, home-grown dramatic productions and insights into Olive herself.

Cradock hosts the Karoo Writers’ Festival to honour the memory of its First Lady, activist-writer Olive Schreiner.

Decor touches in the Victoria Manor, Market Street

I always like popping down to the Schreiner fest because I get to spend time with Mr Booktown Karoo, Darryl Earl David, the guys from the National English Literary Museum (NELM), who are fairly crazy about Olive (Prof Walters and the irrepressible Basil Mills, to name a few), and authors like Tony Jackman and  Etienne van  Heerden. 

Many of the proceedings take place in the elegant old Victoria Manor on Market Street, part of the Tuishuise complex – the pride of Cradock. And, Olive being a Victorian lady of her time, it’s all quite appropriate.

The writers and festival-goers love to stay over at the Vic Manor or Tuishuise cottages during the Schreiner fest, because then most events are within easy walking distance and the Victorian ambience gives them a sense of time and place.

The other major festival venue is, of course, the house in Cross Street where Olive lived for some years. That is now Schreiner House, an NELM satellite museum run by Brian ‘Bugs’ Wilmot.

This year promises lots of surprises in the form of a literary dinner, wine and book pairing, and food inspired by various books.

My wife Jules and I have the easiest job of all – we’re holding a slide show of Karoo images, and rabbiting on about our favourite place on Earth...

Olive Schreiner inspires a new wave of Karoo writers

Category: Events

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