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Spoken word in the spotlight

Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Kito Fortune of the 2 Cents Movement at Presentation College as part of the spoken work tour.

The Bocas Lit Fest heralds the start of its 2014 Spoken Word season, which will come to a close on the final night of the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest on 27 April.


The three-part season of workshops, performance, and competitions is under way with the Courts Bocas Speak Out Secondary Schools Tour across five regions: Trinidad South, Central, East, West and Tobago.


Over the next few weeks, dozens of secondary school students will take part in workshops to acquire skills in performance poetry and spoken word. They then move on to compete, through a screening this month and a grand final in March, for the top prize of a trip to the world’s most prestigious and popular Spoken Word event in the USA, courtesy Courts.


A release from the organisers said the workshops will be led by the dynamic young poets of the 2 Cents Movement, who have been making a name for themselves as exponents of the increasingly popular form, which challenges young people to articulate their thoughts creatively.


U.WE Speak and USC Speak events that started in January and continue in February comprise the performance element of the season. They represent the biggest Open Mic in T&T with around 200 people attending each session. The event, established at UWI St Augustine in October 2005 by Muhammad Muwakil, now of the Freetown Collective, and Nku Davis, remains a compelling part of campus life. U.WE Speak was initially formed to create space for the arts on the UWI campus and Bocas and the 2 Cents Movement are collaborating to ensure that students, prominent local musicians and poets continue to participate in the Open Mic events. 


The purely competition element of the Spoken Word season is the Verses Bocas Poetry Slam, sponsored by First Citizens. Starting this month and continuing through March, it concludes on the final night of the five-day NGC Bocas Lit Fest on 27 April. In 2013 the Poetry Slam final drew a capacity crowd to the festival’s closing event and the winning performance by Crystal Skeete went viral on YouTube with more than 69,000 hits. This year, First Citizens is increasing the size of the prize to reflect the increasing popularity of performance poetry in T&T. The winner will take home $10,000, second place carries a $5,000 reward and third place, $3,000. The daily Festival Open Mic jam sessions, also supported by First Citizens, will be hosted by the 2 Cents Movement. 


Members of the public can take part in these lunchtime events from April 23-27.


“We are very excited about this year’s festival because we have initiated projects to build a greater youth following and we expect to see that reflected in the interest of the festival,” says Jean Claude Cournand, the Bocas Lit Fest youth outreach co-ordinator and 2 Cents Movement director, who adds, “It’s been a fantastic year. We’ve established a really strong partnership with Bocas and we work together throughout the year on a variety of projects to build youth engagement with the Bocas brand.”


Marina Salandy-Brown, Bocas Lit Fest founder, says, “The events our organisation is able to offer are made possible only because of the sponsorship of corporate T&T who see the value of promoting effective ways of self-expression among our citizens, especially the young. And this year UWI has also come on board in a big way for these events, making facilities available and providing much needed support.” 


The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is an annual literary festival with Caribbean focus and international scope, bringing together readers, writers, performers, and publishers for a five-day celebration of words and ideas. 


At the heart of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest are a series of readings by some of T&T’s and the Caribbean’s finest writers of fiction and poetry—from authors of books already considered contemporary classics to prizewinning newcomers.


The 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest will run from April 23 to 27 at the National Library and Old Fire Station, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. 


During April, the NGC Bocas Children’s Lit Fest will be launched with a nationwide children’s storytelling tour that kicks off in Tobago on March 29.





FEBRUARY (Courts Bocas Speak Out Workshops & Screenings
U.WE/USC Speak, Verses Bocas Poetry Slam auditions)


Feb 13
USC, The Barn- USC Speak (Valentines Day Theme)—open to the public



Feb 15
North, Bishop Anstey High School, Port-of-Spain



Feb 16
South, Naparima Girls High School, San Fernando
Tobago—date & venue to be confirmed

Courts Bocas Secondary School Poetry Competition Screening


Feb 18
UWI, Student Activity Centre 
U.WE Speak (Carnival theme: Robbers and Rubbers)—open to the public



Feb 22 and 23: 8 am-6 pm 
Nalis, Abercromby Street, POS
Verses Bocas Poetry Slam Auditions—open to the public
MARCH (Courts Bocas Speak Out Secondary School Finals
VERSES Semi Finals, U.WE/USC Speak)—all events open to the public



Mar 15
UWI, Daaga Hall 
Verses Bocas Poetry Slam—1st Semi Final



Mar 18
USC, The Barn 
USC Speak 
Mar 19 
UWI, Student Activity Centre—U.WE Speak



Mar 20: 8 am-2 pm 
UWI, Daaga Hall 
Courts Bocas Secondary School Poetry Competition Finals



Mar 22 
UWI, Daaga Hall
Verses Bocas Poetry Slam 2nd Semi Final



APRIL (Verses Bocas Poetry Slam finals, U.WE/USC Speak, Festival Lunchtime Open Mic)—all events open to the public
April 7 
USC, The Barn
USC Speak



April 9 
UWI, Student Activity Centre—U.WE Speak 



April 24 - 27 
Nalis, Abercromby Streeet Arcade—Festival Lunchtime Open Mic 



April 27 
Central Bank Auditorium 
Verses Bocas Poetry Slam Finals


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