Just Before Dinner showcases the work of past and current members of a Johannesburg creative writing workshop that has been in operation for 35 years. It was begun at the Johannesburg Art Foundation in Saxonwold, when the artist-director, Bill Ainslie, invited Lionel Abrahams to hold a weekly writing class there. At first it was an afternoon extra for the art students, but the idea rapidly expanded to include an evening session for anyone who wanted to join, and before long up to 18 participants gathered around the big orange table at No. 6, Westwold Way, Saxonwold, on a Monday evening. Lionel’s gentle, perceptive and always wise criticism encouraged a great many writers, eventually including such names as Barbara Adair, Barbara Bailey, Maureen Isaacson, E. M. Macphail, David Medalie, Lionel Murcott, Carl Niehaus, Zachariah Rapola and Immanuel Suttner.
Jane Fox has been facilitating the Thursday Workshop since her husband, Lionel Abrahams, died in 2004. She has published two novels, three biographies and two poetry collections. She runs a specialist library and bookshop in Johannesburg, and writes and directs plays which are performed by a small but enthusiastic amateur theatre company. In her spare time she sings with the Johannesburg Bach Choir, and enjoys being at home with an extended family of children and grandchildren in a rambling old house and garden.
Kay Brown was unsure of which direction to take after matriculating. She was advised by her mother, an English teacher: ‘Study the sciences, the arts will always be there.’ Kay followed this advice and was a member of the first class ever to graduate in Computer Science at Wits. She worked as a programmer and a lecturer, and started and ran her own computer school. Then, when her children left home, she found that the arts were still there. She joined Lionel Abrahams’ writing group and under his mentorship had a number of short stories and humour pieces published. Wits was still there, too, and recently she did her MA in Creative Writing there. Although she still earns her living in the sciences she devotes more and more time to writing and remains an active and enthusiastic member of the writing workshop.