Karoo Keepsakes by Candle Light @ Cradock’s Schreiner Fest

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The Olive Schreiner Museum (and one of her childhood homes) in Cross Street, Cradock.

By Julienne du Toit & Chris Marais

When you run a slide show presentation to a packed room, a power failure is your worst nightmare.

So there we were last Saturday night at the Vic Manor in Market Street, Cradock, and the audience was well-sherried and full of cheer.

Party up in Nieu-Bethesda – one of our slide show pix that entertained the audience.

We were presenting the Karoo in pictures as part of one of the launches of our brand-new Karoo Space e-Bookstore.

They were loving it, we were loving it, and then the Universe decided to take all Cradock’s electricity away at that very moment.

The crowd were stunned and in darkness. Sandra Antrobus, the owner, ordered the lighting of candles and suddenly the room turned magic with atmosphere.

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The unflappable Jurie Taljaard helped to save our slide show.

Then I turned to my friend Jurie Taljaard and asked him to read a few passages from our new Knapsak vol Karoo I and II in his deep Kristofferson voice.

Jurie read to a delighted audience until the lights came back on and we could finish our show.

This year the Schreiner Karoo Writers’ Festival brought out the big guns, in the form of world-renowned crime novelist Deon Meyer, Zen Buddhist author Antony Osler, Karoo chef-writer Gordon Wright and the ever-popular local lad, Toast Coetzer, travel writer, slam poet and general wordsmith-genius.

First of the stars to arrive was Neil Stemmet. He is a restaurant designer, food blogger, writer of sout + peper and had come to launch his most recent book, agter + blad.

But he also photographed every event he’d been to at the festival, which started on Thursday where he gave a talk to the local Cradock High School students on design, drama and hospitality.

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The Karoo Brew Coffee Corner was doing brisk trade at the festival.

Cradock has always had literary strength, starting with Olive Schreiner, after whom the festival is named.

Many were born here, including Guy Butler and Neville Alexander, whose legacy was celebrated on Thursday evening by Prof Liz Stanley.

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Deon Meyer in conversation with Jurie Taljaard about crime-writing and his latest novel.

Olive may have died a long time ago, but her books, letters and relationships are still being analysed. This year’s SKWF coincided with a new interpretive display at the Schreiner House Museum, including such touching items as her own little medicine box and her pens, original manuscripts (hand-written in pen-dipped ink).

Prof Liz Stanley and Andrea Salter launched their new book on Olive Schreiner, published by the Van Riebeeck Society: The World’s Greatest Question: Olive Schreiner’s South African Letters 1889 – 1920.

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Cradock’s own Dominee Attie van Wyk at a huiskonsert during the festival.

Anthony Voss discussed the early Schreiner novel Undine and the clues it gave of what books Olive may have read as a child (many of which, incidentally, may have been from the Cradock Library).

Dorothy Driver, one of South Africa’s foremost English academics, was here, adding to the discussions on Olive Schreiner.

Prof Paul Walters (chairman of the Schreiner Festival) and Jeremy Fogg of NELM previewed a new book by Rachel Holmes called Eleanor Marx: A Life (Bloomsbury) on Olive Schreiner’s experiences in London and her friendship with Marx.

Explorer, writer and traveller Patricia Glyn literally moved the audience to tears with her fascinating, moving account of her relationship and journey with 76-year-old Khomani Bushman, Dawid Kruiper.

Deon Meyer spoke about his latest book Kobra (and English translation Cobra) to a large crowd. He was interviewed by one of his most avid Cradock readers – the very same Jurie Taljaard, who had rescued our show the night before.

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Toast Coetzer in full creative flow.

The Open Microphone event was again one of the most popular, with Deon Meyer, Antony Osler, Toast Coetzer, Anthony Voss, Dorothy Driver and Patricia Glyn reading poetry or extracts from their books.

It was a very full programme, including a performance by singer and songwriter Randall Wicomb, the screening of the movie Die Ballade van Robbie de Wee (written by Deon Meyer, directed by Darryl Roodt), a social media workshop by Dawn Jorgensen and Hein van Tonder; and the increasingly popular Cradock Literary Walk by Brian Wilmot.

Judging by the rave reviews on social media, the festival was a roaring success. And many are already plotting a return at next year’s event.

And now that we have learned how to give slide shows in the dark, we at Karoo Space hope to be invited back as well…

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Antony Osler of Stoep Zen and Zen Dust was one of the big hits of the show.

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