The Club was formed in 2017 and continues to grow its membership due to its unique ability to connect people, start conversations, create lifelong friendships and truly commit to being a nation more responsible for the public good.
The Club started with four people who met on a weekly basis in Le Bruyns’ home. Less than two years later, it boasts almost 400 members around Pietermaritzburg, Ballito and Durban.
Members include teenagers, retirees, students, and people from all walks of life who come together through a shared love of books and films. Due to its diversity, one of the Club’s distinctive factors, is what Le Bruyns refers to as its ‘convening power’.
‘The Club brings together, in one and the same space, the most unlikely suspects. These are undoubtedly people who would not be found in the same place together socialising in each other’s homes or seemingly have anything in common. And yet, here we are. Doing the most unlikely things with the most unlikely people in the most unlikely settings. And growing together with a sincere sense of connectedness or community, resulting in a number of special relationships and shared experiences and projects,’ said Le Bruyns.
A typical Club meeting involves discussing the chosen book or film for that week, sparking meaningful conversations that go on for hours. Le Bruyns says members are not interested in New York Times bestsellers but instead are reading books by young, Black writers across Africa. ‘We need to listen to our own peers and youth who are contributing through fiction and non-fiction on the real lived experience among communities,’ he said.
Le Bruyns encourages people to join and not to assume the Club is some elitist intellectual group that unfailingly reads entire books and engages in sophisticated reviews.
‘We are an informal, relaxed, but thoughtful group of ordinary people committed to courageous conversations with one another, drawing mostly on the knowledge, values and experiences of those in the room,’ he adds. ‘Among the ideas I have for the group is to include much more marginalised voices and contributions in times to come. The participation of children is a good example.’
Asked how the Club fits into community engagement at UKZN, he said, ‘The Club is just one apt case in point that as academics we do not, and we dare not, belong to ourselves. We owe our communities good scholarship. Show up in the everyday spaces of contested life, as part of your core work. And let’s start wrestling with the question of what it might mean to “decolonise community engagement” with its inevitable call to disrupt how we are doing it and to do it differently.’
To find out what the Dolphin Coast Book and Film Club will be reading or watching next, go to the community social groups’ platform https://www.meetup.com/Dolphin-Coast-Book-Club-Meetup, which includes a link to their Facebook Page. To become a member, contact Le Bruyns at firstname.lastname@example.org