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Kingston Book Festival Becomes Biennial Event: Next Event March 2018

Poet Mel Cooke reads to an audience as KBF 2016 lunch time event

The Book Industry Association of Jamaica (BIAJ) has announced that the Kingston Book Festival, usually held every March, will become an biennial event, with the next staging taking place in March 2018. KBF was one of the BIAJ’s  flagship events and the 2017 edition would have marked its milestone 5th year. 

The festival was the brainchild of writer and publisher Kellie Magnus during her tenure as the BIAJ’s Publishing Director. Magnus also functioned as the KBF chair.

“This decision was made following a recent strategic session where the BIAJ Board of Directors, after careful consideration, decided to host the Festival biennially to better facilitate the required levels of planning and fundraising of this mainly volunteer-led event,” an advisory sent out by the BIAJ said.

BIAJ Chairman, Latoya West Blackwood explained that the decision to shift to a biennial staging was a strategic move to ensure the festival’s sustainability. West Blackwood advised that although the association would gladly reconsider returning to annual stagings should funding be available to sustain it, at present, it wasn’t practical.

“We had to take a decision that leads to a proper and sustainable event,” West Blackwood said.

“We really need to have a model that is not dependent on a single personality,” West Blackwood said. “Even though there are other entities that support the festival, there wasn’t a model that could have been adopted if the lead planner wasn’t available.”

Magnus agreed that ensuring the festival’s sustainability is important and that this was a factor the volunteer-based environment in which the festival operated.

Authors A-dZiko Simba, Olive Senior, Vladimir Lucien & Mel Cooke at the 2016 Love Affair With Lit event

“While I do believe that Kingston can sustain an annual festival, in a volunteer organization like the BIAJ can marshalling those resources annually can prove challenging,” Magnus said. 

She made sure to point out, however, that this was not a reflection of the city and its interest in literature. 

“Kingston has always been supportive of the festival in every iteration,” Magnus said

The city’s interest in participating in the festival was reflected in the diversity of entities which participated as well as the range of events in the eight days of programmed events. Entities which have supported the festival include the Department of Literatures in English at the UWI (Mona), the Jamaican Writers Society and the National Library of Jamaica, which staged events annually. Several publishers, writers and authors also participated in the festival staging readings in schools, prisons, bars, and on the streets. 

Since its test run at the Spanish Court Hotel in 2011, which preceded its official 2012 start, the Kingston Book Festival’s signature event the Kingston Book Fair, was staged at Emancipation Park in 2012 and Devon House thereafter. There was no festival in 2014.