The NGC Bocas Lit Fest, British Council, and Commonwealth Writers have announced a new partnership that will work towards enhancing the Caribbean literary scene and help kick-start an infrastructure to support writers, writing, and publishing. The Caribbean Literature Action Group (CALAG) will be launched in Port of Spain at a one-day brainstorm workshop on April 25, on the eve of the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. The Caribbean has produced some of the world's greatest contemporary writers, including three Nobel Prize laureates. Its literature is one of the region's most celebrated cultural products.
But Caribbean writers continue to migrate to North America and Europe in order to obtain financial support for their work and to achieve the highest level of international recognition. Literary publishing within the region remains in an embryonic state, and talented writers who choose to stay "at home" often find it difficult to access international publishers, or find opportunities for local publication and promotion. In light of these common interests, the British Council and Commonwealth Writers have now developed a plan to work in partnership with the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and other literary professionals in the region. The first stage is to assemble a small, results-oriented action group of professionals from all areas of the Caribbean literary sector: writers, publishers, editors, teachers, booksellers, and organisers of festivals and writing programmes.
Participants include publishers such as Linda Speth of UWI Press and Lasana Sekou of House of Nehesi; Justine Henzell, co-founder of the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica; Esther Phillips of the new BIM literature festival in Barbados and Gracelyn Cassell of the Alliougana Festival in Montserrat; Funso Aiyejina of the Cropper Foundation Writers' Workshop in T&T; and writers Kei Miller of Jamaica and Kendel Hippolyte of St Lucia. International participants include Ellah Allfrey (deputy editor of Granta) and Jeremy Poynting (Peepal Tree Press). Facilitators for the action group include Nicholas Laughlin, editor of The Caribbean Review of Books, Linda Leith, founder of Blue Metropolis Bleu in Quebec, writer Anita Sethi, and Susie Nicklin, director of Literature, British Council.
The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is an annual literary festival held in T&T on the last weekend in April. It is the largest literary festival in the Anglophone Caribbean and provides a unique forum for bringing international and Caribbean writers at home and abroad together with their readers. The festival programme includes readings, performance poetry, discussions, debates, workshops, film screenings, book launches and signings, a children's programme, and the presentation of the annual OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature. www.bocaslitfest.com
• The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a non-profit organisation that receives supporting sponsorship from OCM and KFC. Sponsors include the Commonwealth Foundation, First Citizens Bank, Courts Trinidad Limited, and flow. The Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism, TDC, and NLCB provide public funding.
• The British Council is the UK's international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The British Council literature team works with UK writers, poets, and the literature sector to develop collaborations and high-quality events around the world.
• Commonwealth Writers-a World of New Fiction-is an ongoing cultural programme within the Commonwealth Foundation which develops, connects, and inspires writers.
By awarding prizes and running on-the-ground activities, it works in partnership with international literary organisations, the wider cultural industries, and civil society to help writers develop their craft in the fifty-four countries of the Commonwealth. www.commonwealthwriters.org is a forum where members from anywhere in the world can exchange ideas and contribute to debates.
The Commonwealth Foundation is an intergovernmental organisation funded principally by Commonwealth governments, and guided by Commonwealth values. We aim to strengthen civil society in the achievement of Commonwealth priorities including democracy, good governance, sustainable development, and cultural diversity.
"The NGC Bocas Lit Fest was established to promote Caribbean writers and writing. Joining forces with the British Council and Commonwealth Writers, two entities dedicated to advancing literature in many other regions of the world, presents a real opportunity to help push forward development in the region's publishing sector. We are delighted to be able to work with fellow Caribbean people who share the same ambition."
-Marina Salandy-Brown, Festival director/founder, NGC Bocas Lit Fest
"The British Council is privileged to have been invited to join such a distinguished group to address issues of concern, not just to the Caribbean but to writers across the Americas. With the Council's global remit I hope that my experience and expertise will be helpful, but I expect to learn far more than I can teach from such vibrant and accomplished people."
-Susie Nicklin, director of Literature, British Council
"Commonwealth Writers is excited to be part of this timely action group to generate practical ideas to help shape a dynamic publishing infrastructure across the Caribbean. We hope that the initiatives which emerge from CALAG will in the longer term be transferable to other regions where opportunities for writers are scarce."
-Lucy Hannah, Programme manager, Culture, Commonwealth Foundation