ParkWords 2019: a neighbourhood get together with a literary twist

16 September 2019 - 09:24 By Kate Sidley

Published in the Sunday Times: 15/09/2019

Stroll down Tyrone Avenue, the main street of the Joburg suburb of Parkview, any day of the week and you're likely to spot an author at a pavement table sipping a morning coffee or a journalist propping up the bar at Blind Tiger. (Yes, you will have to look carefully and adjust for the fact that they are 10 years older than their byline or author pic.) Occasionally a writer might even be seen jogging or cycling through the leafy streets. The writing life is not what it used to be, all ciggies and bourbon for breakfast.

The suburb is oddly awash with writers. A number of factors make it attractive to writerly types - a good government school, convivial coffee shops to work in, proximity to universities and media houses, walking distance to Love Books. Admittedly, most of the writers currently residing in the area bought a decade or two ago when - astonishing as it seems today - a journalist could afford the deposit on a house in the leafy Parks.

Noticing this preponderance of ponderers and plotters, Peter Delmar - a Parkview-dwelling journalist - had the bright idea of a neighbourhood Book Fair to showcase the writing talent from the suburb and surrounds. Fortunately, the suburb has a thriving residents' association with practical people who can organise things like city permits (these would be different people from the writers, obviously), and they put his idea into practice. And so it came to pass that in 2014 the first ParkWords, the Parkview Literary Festival, was held.

The third ParkWords Festival will take place on Heritage Day. Most of Tyrone Avenue will be closed off. While the book-related sessions take place in the restaurants and coffee shops, eaters and chatters take over the pavement and street. Local kids are invited to sell their second-hand books (20% of the proceeds go to the Parkview Library to buy more books). Entry is free - just bring a couple of books to donate.

A neighbourhood get together is always fun - the mix of ages and interests, the sense of community. And how can you not love a book fair where The Gruffalo and Where's Wally share a platform with Adam Habib and Simon Gear?

It's relaxed but interesting. History buff Charles van Onselen will talk with Richard Steyn. Mondli Makhanya will chat corruption with Rob Rose and David Lewis. Novelists Achmat Dangor, Craig Higginson, Pamela Power and Steven Boykey Sidley will shoot the breeze with Lorraine Sithole.

There's a kids' programme too - Hamilton Wende and William Gumede will introduce their new books to the tough audience of primary-schoolers. Kids and parents are also invited to read from Little Frida's Book Cart. And when bookish matters are done, The Runaway Train Cult band will start up the music and dancing. And then, it's home for baths and bedtime stories. This is the suburbs, after all.