Last week, I happened across a number of posts on Twitter about #GrillandRead. I almost always read while I eat so the Grill part caught me. This is a candid post on my personal experiences at #GrillandRead.
GrillandRead, like the Convener, Abigail Anaba, author of Sector IV, (@anabagail on Twitter) says, is a gathering where people who love reading, the occasional readers, writers (the Serious, Not-So Serious and the Pretentious), Poets, Spoken Word (artistes?) and people interested in literary stuff, can come together in a conducive atmosphere and have fun talking about books while networking and munching on grilled food. There was a lot of buzz about it on Twitter; dozens of retweets clogging my timeline on a regular, all the cool Port Harcourt people and @TouchPH were behind it and so I just had to come.
In the past, I have had terrible experiences with literary events in Port Harcourt, and I was a little apprehensive, but with convincing on Twitter from Franklin (@ThatPHCBoy on Twitter) and the Convener herself, I decided to. By the end of the event, I had decided to write a review of my experience and well, here I am.
If you are organizing any event at all, one of the things you have to pay attention to is the location. GrillandRead did a very good job with that. By situating it at the junction of Elekahia Estate and Stadium road, which is centered in Port Harcourt, the organizers could be sure of a solid number of attendees from all over the city. And this was what happened. There were attendees from Choba, Aluu, Mgbouba, Elekahia, Artillery, Old GRA, GRA Phase 2, Rukpokwu, Eliozu and so many other places. I had never been to the location before that day but it was easy for me to find, all of the taxis on Stadium Road knew it. There was also a large banner placed at the gate entrance, which is just at the junction and so even those without my 20/20 *cough* vision could find it.
The garden which was also used (Name withheld abeg, #NoFreeAdverts), was conducive enough, contributing lots to the right kind of ambience (as much as you can find it in grey-weathered Port Harcourt) and for all that, high marks in my books.
Sound and music
Music is a huge part of any groove, book party or fraternity shindig, and the DJ played an okay selection of music, calm enough not to be too jarring, but boring enough that I can barely recall a single song that was played. I do remember though, that there was almost no correlation between the songs played, save that they were “RnB musiks”. Music is a huge part of the arts and I really hoped the music at a book get-together would have been a little more stimulating, in going with the rhythm or theme of the entire event. Alas, too much to hope for.
Also, the microphone kept having really terrible signal and made a large part of the proceedings nearly unbearable to un…d…sta…and. In my opinion, the organizers did not plan or determine any kind of theme for the event or even bother arranging a playlist with the DJ. Neither did they test equipment properly before the event commenced. Low marks here.
Open Mic, Spoken Word and Master(?) of Events
First off, the Open Mic session was the very best of the entire event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself here. Dozens of people, including yours truly had opportunities to read some of our stuff as well as, stuff we had read somewhere to the entire audience. I listened to some really good poems and heard some really nice voices. The spoken word poets present were the very best and big kudos to the Convener for encouraging the Word Phantoms (a spoken word group out of University of Port Harcourt) to perform. I had my fingers nearly sore from clapping again and again.
The Master of ceremony however was terrible. His jokes were boring, and more than half the time he seemed unsure of the programme he was running with. Thank goodness literary enthusiasts love to talk and helped him out a lot of the time with their own comments and jokes. That session would have been a disaster. It was Hallelujah when the Convener came up and gave us leave to hit the grill, mingle and ignore the MC.
Food, drinks, books and ticketing
To attend GrillandRead, the ticket fee was
N1,400, with options to pay online or with a bank transfer and also at the gate. This was favourable for me because my USSD mobile transfer didn’t go through when I tried and while a large part of Port Harcourt is indeed in this decade, quite a considerable number remains as traditional as they come. However, at the gate I was charged N1,500. I am not sure even now if that was inclusive of a “gate charge”. It was very bad form to charge a different price at the gate, from what was listed on the website.
Speaking of bad form; tickets came with stubs for food and drink. Ergo, the food (which was Holy and Blessed by the Almighty Port Harcourt Bole and Fish, served in a styrofoam pack with plastic – imagine! – forks) is supposed to paid for with the ticket right? Wrong. Getting to the grill, I was informed that the ticket only paid for fish (a tiny thing I would get across the road at Elekahia estate for
N100-150) and that for the yams and plantain (that make up the actual bole), I would have to pay a sum. Bad, bad, bad.
The drinks were not so bad, with orange juice in a bottle and lemonade poured in a cup being the options. I chose lemonade, which was okay, packed chockfull with ice cubes as it was, and can only surmise the orange juice was as good. The only other options for drink available were sold.
Authors, Discussions and Books
The panel of authors which included Othuke Ominiabohs, author of Odufa and A Conspiracy of Ravens, Ifeanyi Ajaegbo, author of Sarah House, Franklyn FineCountry, author of Avenger of Blood and Merit Gogo-Fyneface, author of White Places were completely uninformed (or so they had us believe) of what their duty was at the event and spent most of the time (when the faulty microphone let them) saying, “So, I don’t know what you want to know. What do you want to know? Can someone help me?”
I didn’t know as well so I couldn’t help.
The discussion devolved immediately after it started, with the very boring and barely grasped monologue of a young man (didn’t get his name) who kept trying to compare Things Fall Apart with the movie adaptation (which almost none of us had seen or could remember seeing) and trying to align the comparison with comments on the Nigerian movie industry of today. I was lost from the very beginning and I have seen the 1971 movie adaptation of Things fall Apart.
Like with most events that happen in Port Harcourt, the discussion became much too intellectual (and boring). People began leaving their seats and milling about as the authors on the panel tried not to disagree too much with some (book buying and patronizing) members of the audience, several individuals hustled for the faulty microphone with the MC, each posturing and desperate to make their voice heard and have their say while using too many words, the DJs went around the corner to eat their (hopefully free) bole and out of the corner of my eye, I watched the Convener flee to the carpark where some fellows had gathered around several bottles of palm wine and it seemed a very interesting discussion was brewing.
Book dat cost
I went to the carpark too after passing by the book stand.
The book stand had books by each of the visiting authors, as well as some others. And to my greatest surprise, the costs of the books were such that I was tempted to question my motives to read more African writers. One would imagine that with the amount paid at the gate, the book vendors would have agreed on a discount rate with the organizers. Apparently, the money paid for the venue had to made back or something because that did not happen.
Final Words – Will I attend another GrillandRead event?
Yes. I made a couple of new friends at GrillandRead Mr @CharlesOzi and Miss IB (@Designerkath on Twitter) among them. The networking session could have done with a little help, such as games and other fun events to pair attendees and help loosen the characteristic shyness most book lovers suffocate themselves with. It would have helped me for sure. Perhaps I should have eaten a hearty lunch before attending and come stocked with more cash for books, and perhaps a less apprehensive mind, but I am sure with a little improvement and adjustment to the more tense mien of the Port Harcourt people, GrillandRead will do better next time.
- Just my opinion o! I have a manuscript with publishers, before I hear say ehen…Na joke I dey
- LOL. I am not joking. I meant every word.
- If I mispell a name or book, please forgive
Follow on Twitter @Stillweather.
Spoke to the Convener on Twitter and she said, prices of tickets were set to be cheaper online than at the venue to encourage people to pay ahead of the date. Also, GrillandRead did not promise food for attendees, but only fish, palmwine or fruit juice on the ticket. These details according to Abigail were stated clearly in the @GrillnRead tweets prior to the event.
I unfortunately did not see those tweets before this post.