by Inge Triegaardt

Earlier this month we were invited to a festival that would normally be frowned upon in our household. Why? Well, I honestly do not have an answer for you. Maybe because we don’t see ourselves as being on a high enough level (whatever level that is) or we simply would not want to attend, because reading books for a couple of days and listening to people reading books is straight out boring!

Oh how wrong could we be! This is the perfect place to be in the middle of winter, all snuggled up in an old Victorian Hotel in the middle of the Karoo, with winter woolies and fires crackling in the background. Yes, we braved the cold and headed to the Karoo town of Cradock for the weekend of 17-21 June to attend the Schreiner: Karoo Writers Festival.

Upon arrival we soon bumped into the likes of Tony Jackman and Sally Andrew. Within minutes we found ourselves attending a story-telling session with Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit. These two people are the authors of the fabulous Karoo Roads series and they soon took us on a journey where several small Karoo towns were brought to life with vibrant pictures and their personal encounters with the people who keep these towns alive. The journey came to an end too soon and it was time to wine-and-dine like royals in the Albert Dining Hall of the iconic Victoria Manor.

For a moment we felt like we were part of the who’s-who as we were met by true Karoo hospitality from the brilliant staff who wined and dined us fine some fine food, all while rubbing shoulders with the likes of Etienne van Heerden and his wife enjoying an evening meal. The three course meal that Lisa Kerr and her staff so deliciously prepared for us, ranged from refreshing Springbok carpaccio, to pork belly, roasted potatoes, and brandy tart. The menu was filled with so many choices and the more we ate, the more starstruck we became as we simply could not believe that we were amongst some of the greatest names in South African literature.

The first evening ended on a more lighter note with a professional juggler showing us the ropes (literally) and we were treated with a spectacular show in front of the Victoria Manor in Market Street. A true crowd pleaser.

After a good night’s sleep in our Tuishuis (read all about the famous Tuishuise and the iconic Victoria Manor hotel in our next article), it was time to meet for breakfast. We had a full day ahead with a variety of “acts” all lined up. Great was our excitement when we bumped into the new internet sensation from Gqerberha, Dr. Dean Allen, his lovely wife Danica and of course the now famous Little Turtle as she is now know, their beautiful daughter. Dean was presenting/launching his Frontier Land books at the Writers Festival. If you ever thought (like me) that history is right out boring, you need to attend one of Dean’s sessions. Being travellers and doing some writing ourselves, we have used Dean’s Frontier Land Volume 1 and Volume 2 books as guides to exploring the Eastern Cape, but he has the ability to turn history into stories and you will soon find yourself locked in on a journey that you never want to end.

One of the highlights of the Festival was most definitely Des Lindberg. This legendary muso (that’s all I knew him for), got me hooked for two hours! Here I am, on a Saturday evening, listening to one of the biggest names in South African music history, telling us all about him and his wife, the late Dawn Lindberg’s journeys together. From music to theatre, local to abroad and everything in between. With Tony Jackman (editor of The Daily Maverick) as an anchor, it sure was an entertaining session. The hall was packed with everyone reminiscing and singing along to the tunes that the duo was known for. A the end of the night not a dry eye was in sight as an emotional book signing with the 81-year old legend came to an end with another exquisite dinner in the cosy dining are.

We have always known about the Schreiner: Karoo Writers Festival, but it was never a priority on our list. This year we recognized a couple of names and decided to attend to see what it was all about. Lisa Kerr and her amazing team has put together an unbelievable, intimate program for this very personal feel to the festival. With a limited number of people attending, all having one common interest….literature, this Festival is sure to grow into something bigger every year. Make sure to add the mid-winter Schreiner: Karoo Writers Festival to your calendar and make your way to Cradock. We will definitely be there in 2023 to have some Gluhwein with you!

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