The eagerly anticipated 5th edition of the Garden City Literary Festival (GCLF) held from 15th to 20th October 2012, at the Hotel Presidential. The event, which is organized by the Rainbow Book Club in collaboration with the Rivers State Government, had as its theme Women in Literature.
The Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was the chief host at the opening ceremony. Special guests included GCLF guest authors such as Veronique Tadjo who delivered the keynote address, Doreen Baingana and Chibundu Onuzo. Other authors present were Captain Elechi Amadi, Pa Gabriel Okara and historian Prof. Alagoa. Noo Saro-Wiwa, however, was unable to attend due to immigration challenges. The symposium was moderated by Prof. Chioma Opara of the University of Port Harcourt. Due to the university closure, there was a last minute venue change and the opening/symposium was instead held in the Royal Banquet Hall of the Hotel Presidential.
There were the usual highlights of the festival, such as the Garden City Book Fair, writer’s workshops, interactive sessions with authors, drama performances and special events for children. In addition to the usual writing/drama/arts workshop and the role-models-read sessions, GCLF 2012 had more to offer children: an additional creative writing workshop and a nationwide essay competition for senior secondary students. The Rivers State Commissioner for Education, Attorney-General of Rivers State and authors Sola Alamutu and Polly Alakija, read to a varied group of children at different times. On the last day of the event, winners of the pre-event essay competition received awards and gifts donated by the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA). The week-long celebration of literature and the arts rounded off with a Jazz and Poetry evening.
During the festival wrap-up event, Port Harcourt was unveiled as UNESCO World Book Capital 2014 and we launched our book Nigerian Literature: A Coat of Many Colours. Compiled and edited by Mrs. Koko Kalango, the book’s foreword was written by President Goodluck Jonathan and the introduction by Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi. This historic segment of the festival programme was attended by, amongst others, Nobel Laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, Commissioner for Information Mrs. Ibim Semenitari (representing Governor Amaechi) and the former Governor of Cross Rivers State H.E. Donald Duke. Also present were key writers from Port Harcourt such as Capt. Elechi Amadi, Pa Gabriel Okara, Prof. E.J. Alagoa and Igoni Barrett.
GCLF 2012 seemed richer in content and scope in comparison with past festivals.