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Gibraltar International Literary Festival 2019: What to Expect

Peter Schirmer

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2019: Peter Schirmer gives a breakdown of what to expect and reminds that Gibraltar is the only host country that does not currently have a bookshop…

Of the more than 100 annual literary festivals dotting the calendars of countries across the English-speaking world, this year’s Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival will be unique – though perhaps not entirely for the most laudable of reasons.

The four-day event, which runs from the 14th of November 2019 is hosted by the only city – indeed, the only country – celebrating writers and their works that does not have its own bookshop.

Gibraltar Bookshop 2012
The last remaining Gibraltar Bookshop, which was in business since 1975, closed it’s doors in 2019 due to decline in sales.

Two decades ago Gibraltar was home to three bookshops, and though, when the Rock’s annual literary festival was launched seven years ago, one of these had closed, two remained and Gibraltarians and visitors could buy recently published hard-cover fiction and non-fiction.

Today the information office of the Heritage Trust sells local works – a pointer to the way in which people’s reading habits have been changed by modern technology, according to the then Minister of Education, Steven Linares.

During the recent election campaign Linares told Reach: ‘More and more people are turning to Amazon to buy physical books or are downloading books they want to read on Kindle and similar electronic sources. As a Government we were aware that people still want access to buying books and are looking at the possibility of establishing a bookshop which would be linked to the library.’

Though the Gibunco Festival does not attempt to rival the venerable, ten-day Hay Festival of Literature & Arts which inspired it and other literary festivals – in places as diverse as Nairobi, Dhaka, the Maldives, Beirut, Belfast, Cartagena and Segovia – the Rock boxes well above its weight, and has become an important part of Gibraltar’s cultural calendar opening it up as a major cultural venue to the rest of Europe.

Gibraltar Literary Festival
Gibraltar Literary Festival 2017

Devised in 1988 in a small Welsh town already nicknamed ‘the Town of Books’ because of its numerous bookshops, the Hay festival was described by Bill Clinton as ‘The Woodstock of the mind’. And, like the Hay, the Gibunco festival offers school pupils opportunities to hear and interact with the world-renowned speakers, while its eclectic nature is underlined by an interplay with appreciation of gastronomy, of art, of jazz music, and of poetry.

Gastronomes are to be treated to two exceptional meals – the opening dinner will be prepared by award-winning Scots chef Jeremy Lee and the kitchen staff of the Caleta Hotel, and the final dinner, on the Sunborn, which will be presented by Ching He Huan, an International Emmy nominated TV chef & cookery author.

Lee has worked in top London restaurants playing a considerable part in the great resurgence in British cooking. His menus are quintessentially British and he has been described by one respected food critic as a “rare phenomena in the London food world; a chap everyone agrees is a good thing.”

Ching has become an ambassador of Chinese cooking around the world. Born in Taiwan, raised in South Africa and U.K., cookery has been ‘a vital connection’ between herself and her Chinese heritage. Her approach to cookery stems from the traditional cooking and lifestyles of her farming community grandparents in Southern Taiwan.

Both Chefs will also prepare two lunch events for the Festival.

Gibraltar Literary Festival Chris Patten Hong Kong
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As in previous years the 2019 festival features an impressive constellation of distinguished novelists, historians, biographers and public figures from Britain as well as a strong contingent of Gibraltar writers. Venues include the Garrison Library, which is the hub of the festival, the King’s Chapel at the Convent, Mackintosh Hall, Kings Bastion and the Sunborn – ideal locations for a packed programme of enthralling lectures and events allowing ‘constant interaction between authors and audiences’

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2019: Peter Schirmer gives a breakdown of what to expect and reminds that Gibraltar is the only host country that does not currently have a bookshop…

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