Reading the eulogy, veteran journalist Lennox Grant boasted his childhood friend the late journalist extraordinaire, Keith Bernard Smith earned "iconic status" in T&T journalism. Hundreds of mourners shared Grant's view at the celebration of Smith's life and illustrious writing career at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain, on February 12. Renowned for his column in the Daily Express, Smith, a doyen among journalists, died on February 8. On Thursday, Smith's work was venerated again at "the festival of words." A pamphlet billed him as "newspaperman extraordinaire." Occasion was the launch of the Bocas Lit Fest (The Trinidad and Tobago Literary Festival) at the National Library, Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain. Among the distinguished citizens who read from Smith's corpus were musicologist Pat Bishop, veteran mas man Peter Minshall, journalist Raoul Pantin and Guardian columnist BC Pires. Bocas Lit Fest is billed as the first major literary festival held in T&T and the Southern Caribbean.
Commenting on the festival, founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown said: "It is not meant to be elitist. It is meant to be fun. I thought the readings were so beautifully read and acted. We want it to be good in every way." Describing Avocado (de zaboca) as "a delightfully written piece," Minshall said he "remembered laughing out loud to myself, and, whatever spirits filled the room." Pantin said, "The start of the reading for Keith Smith was a good idea. "The four readings covered a wide range of the grassroots material that Keith dealt with. I am sure that Keith, wherever he is, must be smiling from ear to ear."
He paid kudos to Salandy-Brown for her initiative. He said: "I think the festival was an excellent idea."
Renowned for Salt and Schoolmaster, Earl Lovelace said, "I think the honouring or recognition of Keith was important. I think he was one of our real credible personalities." Visiting Jamaican writer Lorna Goodison labelled the pieces as "marvellous." She said: "It is a wonderful thing."
Children urged to read
During a television interview on CNC3, Prof Funso Aiyejina, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education, said there was a thrust toward encouraging young readers. Special segments of the festival have been dedicated to the younger generation in a bid to create a literate, enlightened society. Commenting on the move to awaken the children to the power and majesty of the written word, Salandy-Brown said: "It's a full programme for children to match the adults. We will be going all around the country." Apart from the readings, she said there would be films and workshops dedicated to the children. The children would also learn about Caribbean writers like Martin Carter, Sam Selvon and poets like Claude Mc Kay and Evan Jones.
Among those present at the launch were veteran journalists Errol Pilgrim, Lennox Grant, Express columnist Judy Raymond, Guardian columnist Mark Lyndersay and his wife Donna. They were joined by choreographer Carol La Chapelle, writers Lisa Allen-Agostini, Anthony Milne and Colin Robinson. Apart from the Smith tributes, there were mounted displays featuring the work of Caribbean writers like Derek Walcott. As the festival unfolds, musician Gillian Moor and Muhammed Muwakhil will be coordinating the open mic sessions to offer a platform for budding writers and bibliophiles. Summing up the festival, Salandy-Brown said: "It is neither a book fair nor a conference. The events are for everyone, from budding writers to avid readers and schoolchildren." The festival ends today.