What do you get when writers, authors, poets and orators all gather under one roof? An explosion of creative talent. And that's exactly what the National Gas Company Bocas Lit Fest is all about. The festival will open its doors to the public today till Sunday at the National Library, Port-of-Spain. Founder and festival director Marina Salandy-Brown assures that it's an event worth attending. Now in its second year, this "celebration of books and writing" promises to be bigger and better, with 70 celebrated writers and speakers from the region and around the world already booked to attend.
The event, she believes, will help to exploit and enhance the festival's presence on the world's stage. "This is something that I've always wanted to do. I love lit fests," said the former BBC producer. "When I came back to Trinidad, after spending most of my adult life living abroad, I realised that we didn't have a lot of avenues for writers to showcase their work. The opportunities for writers have dwindled, and that's a problem. I decided to start this because we needed a forum to bring all these writers together." The festival will feature more than 90 events, which include readings, performances, workshops, book signings, discussions on history, culture, current affairs, sport and fashion, as well as open-mic forums.
Historian Prof Bridget Brereton, former fashion journalist Rosemary Stone and writer Dr Kim Johnson are only a few of the speakers carded for the festival. Sounds interesting? Salandy-Brown assures it is. "It's a forum for readers, for all people who love books," she added. "We want to celebrate the Caribbean's literary achievements in a festive atmosphere." And to commemorate T&T's golden jubilee in August, Salandy-Brown says this year's instalment will shine the spotlight on several pertinent issues such as politics, the economy and culture.
A different dimension
Who can attend? Everybody.
Salandy-Brown says the festival caters to anyone interested in writing, reading, learning and sharing their experiences. A former executive director of the T&T Film Festival, Salandy-Brown says another important aspect of the festival is that it will provide an avenue for budding writers of fiction and poetry to garner feedback from experts. "In the region, for instance, there aren't many people who publish fiction, so there isn't that much of an opportunity...Putting your work out there takes on a different dimension. It's a forum for exchanging ideas outside of academia." During the festival, the nominees for the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature-the major award for literary books by Caribbean writers-will also be announced.
Open to writers of poetry, fiction, and literary non-fiction, the coveted prize includes an award of US$10,000. T&T's own Derek Walcott copped the prize last year for his book White Egrets. Salandy- Brown says the initiative was launched to reward writers for their commitment and contribution to the literary field. Nicholas Laughlin, the festival's programme director, anticipates that this year's event will be a success-"That's if last year is anything to go by," he added. "It will have tons of people at the library this week. It's very exciting to have writers from all over the Caribbean. The festival is a great chance for readers to hear from and meet some of the favourite writers. "But it's also a great chance for the writers to meet their readers, which is equally important."
Shortlist for this year's Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature:
The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, by Loretta Collins Klobah (Puerto Rico)
Is Just a Movie, by Earl Lovelace (Trinidad and Tobago)
George Price: A Life Revealed, by Godfrey P. Smith (Belize)
(The three winners in the genre categories now compete for the overall prize to be announced on April 28.)
The 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest kicks off with Penelope Beckles, Albert Laveau, Dr Kenneth Ramchand, Cecilia Salazar and Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie.
9-10 am • Old Fire Station
To commemorate 50 years of Independence, local luminaries read from classic works looking back to the Independence era: fiction by Samuel Selvon and VS Naipaul, poetry by Derek Walcott, a speech by Dr Eric Williams, and satire by the famous "Macaw" columnist of the Trinidad Guardian.
10 am-12 pm • 1st Floor Seminar Room
For beginning writers
Sharon Leach and Kei Miller
10.30-11.30 am • AV Room
Readings by Jamaican authors
The lessons of the past: how we learn our history with Kevin Baldeosingh and Tony Martin; chaired by Dr Brinsley Samaroo
10.30-11.30 am • Old Fire Station
How are our ideas of ourselves and our societies shaped by the way we learn about the past? Authors of recent history textbooks share their perspectives.
PERFORMANCE POETRY/OPEN MIC
11.30 am-12.30 pm • Abercromby Street Arcade
Performance poets and musicians take their vibe to the streets of the city. Plus a chance for budding writers to share their work.
Rosemary Stone on a half-century of style
11.30 am-12.00 pm • Old Fire Station
The author of Spirited Butterfly talks to designer Meiling about 50 years of fashion in T&T.
La Imagen y la Palabra (The Image and the Word)
Director Marilyn Birchfield
12-1pm • AV Room
Short film adaptations of poems by Venezuelan writers.
NEW TALENT SHOWCASE
12.30-1 pm • Old Fire Station
Stephen Narain reads from his fiction and discusses his work.
Kendel Hippolyte and Lasana Sekou
1-2pm • AV Room
Your life as memoir
With Monique Roffey
1-4 pm • 1st Floor Seminar Room
What is Caribbean art? Why we need art history
With Anne Walmsley, Christopher Cozier, Andy Jacob, and Marsha Pearce
1.30-2.30 pm • Old Fire Station
Fifty years of pan
With Dr Kim Johnson
2.30-3.30 pm • AV Room
Supported by the Anthony N Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence programme
Director Maria Peters
4-6 pm • AV Room
A young Surinamese man travels to the Netherlands in 1920.
Erna Brodber and Karen Lord
4.30-5.30 pm • Old Fire Station
Readings by novelists from Jamaica and Barbados
PERFORMANCE POETRY/OPEN MIC
4.30–5.30 pm • Abercromby Street Arcade
Pictures from Paradise
6.30-10 pm • Medulla Art Gallery, 37 Fitt Street, Woodbrook
Launch of a new book surveying contemporary Caribbean photography.
All events take place at the National Library, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, unless otherwise stated.
See Page B29