The first Albany Reading Festival took place on a recent rainy Saturday morning. St Mary’s Development and Care Centre (DCC) played host to a variety of festive activities and literacy organisations which came together to celebrate and encourage a culture of multilingual literacy for young people.
The festival was a joint venture with the Lebone Literacy Project and was funded by Grahamstown’s Catholic Church. The organisers hope to make it an annual event on the local calendar.
The unrelenting rain did not stop the community from coming out to support the festival. The crowd was rewarded with a constant flow of colorful performances, much to the delight of the children present. Smile the Clown and the enthusiastic gumboot-dancing duo of Gwaiza and Anti of the Phezulu Group charmed audiences of all ages.
“This festival is trying to raise awareness about the fun of books and stories, and to get rid of the notion that reading is only work for school,” said Cathy Gush, festival organiser and Lebone Literacy Project Coordinator.
Literacy NGOs Fundza and Nalibali both had stalls, advertising platforms on which young writers can have their work published and receive constructive feedback, while also encouraging them to use any form and language which felt natural. One of the themes of the festival was multilingual literacy. Stories and audio books of many different languages were distributed and submitted, embracing the rich variety of language in South Africa.
“We also want to get information out there about different organisations and what they do within the community, connecting people to organisations,” Gush said.
“We hope to continue and grow this project. If we manage to get necessary funding next year, it would be nice to get a celebrity at the next festival, to be an ambassador for the children.”