Classic readings set tone at Bocas Lit Fest opening

VS NAIPAUL as an appetiser, Dr Eric Williams for an entrée and Derek Walcott for dessert.

This was the literary meal served up at the opening ceremony of the four-day National Gas Company Bocas Lit Fest: The Trinidad and Tobago Literary Festival 2012 yesterday at the Old Fire Station, National Library, Port of Spain, as Julien Neves reports for Trinidad’s Express, to which we have added information reported by Trinidad’s Guardian. Please follow the links below for the original articles.

The event is part sponsored by One Caribbean Media (OCM), parent company of Caribbean Communications Network (CCN) of which the Express and TV6 are part.

The second annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest opened yesterday with readings to commemorate Trinidad and Tobago’s 50 years of independence. Opposition senator Pennelope Beckles, actor Albert Laveau, Prof Kenneth Ramchand, actress Cecilia Salazar and Minister of Planning and the Economy Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie all offered readings from classic Caribbean literature, newspaper columns and speeches at the Old Fire Station in Port-of-Spain. The audience was treated to passages from VS Naipaul’s The Suffrage of Elvira, Samuel Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, poetry from Derek Walcott, a speech by Dr Eric Williams first presented at a 1962 youth rally, and a dramatic reading of the satirical Macaw column published in the T&T Guardian.

Festival founder Marina Salandy-Brown said the selections were meant to set the tone for this year’s festival, which continues at the National Library until April 29. Salandy-Brown, who hosted the opening, also announced that for the duration of the festival, artwork from the series Books & Stupas by Wendy Nanan will be exhibited in the National Library and the Old Fire Station. Lit Fest organisers have also partnered with the Commonwealth Writers’ organisation to address the problems of the Caribbean publishing industry. Salandy-Brown said the Caribbean Literature Action Group was launched at a pre-festival seminar on Wednesday. She said there were twice as many participants in this year’s festival and that organisers worked with booksellers, despite obstacles, to ensure that every author’s work was available to patrons and for festival book signings.

Planning Minister Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie drew from his degree in comparative literature to deliver an entertaining excerpt of Naipaul’s witty The Suffrage of Elvira which drew quite a few laughs from the audience.

His Parliamentary colleague and Leader of Opposition Business in the Senate, Pennelope Beckles-Robinson, read a text from a speech by the first prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the late Dr Eric Williams. The speech, “Forged from the love of liberty” was delivered at an Independence youth rally at the Queen’s Park Oval on August 30, 1962, on the eve of local independence.

In it, Williams noted that the nation was “on the march” and urged the youth not to betray it by “skylark(ing) on the job” or reducing production. In the speech he also noted that with such a mixed society we could either “live together in peace” or “fight it out and destroy one another”.

It was in this speech he made the famous statement to schoolchildren “that you carry the future of Trinidad and Tobago in your schoolbags”.

West Indian Literature professor Kenneth Ramchand read from a number of works from Trinidadian novelist Samuel Selvon, including his poetry and the climax to his novel The Lonely Londoners.

Artistic director of the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, Albert Laveau, delivered a dramatic reading of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott’s poem The Star-Apple Kingdom in his dulcet tones.

Actress Cecilia Salazar capped off the morning with a reading from the satirical Macaw column of January 1958 about the US marines pulling out of the naval base in Chaguaramas.

“Who would get drunk and disorderly and speak of natives?” Who would our teenage daughters marry?” she read to chuckles from the audience.

Fashion designer Meiling, Jamaican poet Prof Mervyn Morris and veteran journalist Raoul Pantin were among those in attendance.

The other events for the day included a workshop for beginning writers, readings by authors, workshops, films, discussions and performance poetry. Simultaneously events for the children’s programme were held at City Hall, Port of Spain.

Festival director Marina Salandy-Brown said this year’s festival had double the number of writers of previous festivals at approximately 55. She also said that there are about 70 participants for about 90 events over the next four days.

Local author and playwright Earl Lovelace, winner of the fiction category of the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for

Caribbean Literature with his most recent novel “Is Just a Movie”, is among three authors vying for the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature of US$10,000.

The 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature short-list also includes, “The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman” by Loretta Collins Klobah of Puerto Rico, the winner of the poetry category, and “George Price: A Life Revealed” by Godfrey P Smith from Belize, the winner of the nonfiction category. The winner of the 2012 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature is scheduled to be named tomorrow.

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