Bocas Lit Fest begins


At the third annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest which started today at the National Library the very first Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Literature will be awarded to Trinidadian John La Rose (posthumously) and Sarah White for their own exemplary work publishing and promoting Caribbean writers.

In the 1940s Henry Swanzy was the editor in what is now the BBC World Service of the weekly Caribbean Voices programme that featured creative writing from the English-speaking Caribbean. It became pivotal in shaping the development of the region’s post war literature, now regarded as the Golden Age of Caribbean writing.

The programme helped launch the careers of many writers who achieved international fame: Trinidadians Sam Selvon and Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul; the other Caribbean Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott from St Lucia; Kamau Brathwaite and George Lamming from Barbados; Jamaicans Gloria Escofery, John Figueroa and Andrew Salkey; Guyanese Edgar Mittelholzer, Wilson Harris and Ian McDonald; and EM ‘Shake’ Keane from St Vincent.

Between 1943 and 1955 when Swanzy left, 400 stories and poems along with plays and literary criticism had been broadcast by 372 contributors. On Swanzy’s departure the Times Literary Supplement wrote “West Indian writers freely acknowledge their debt to the BBC for its encouragement, financial and aesthetic. Without that encouragement the birth of a Caribbean literature would have been slower and even more painful than it has been”. Naipaul noted that Swanzy brought to the programme ‘standards and enthusiasm. He took local writing seriously and lifted it above the local’.

John La Rose migrated to Britain in 1961. With his partner, Sarah White, he founded in London in 1966, New Beacon Books, both a pioneering publishing house and a specialist bookshop focusing on writers and writing from the Caribbean. For him publishing was a vehicle to give independent validation to one’s own culture, history and politics, a way of achieving cultural and social change. They published works by writers such as Wilson Harris, Andrew Salkey, Errol Hill, Dennis Scott, Erna Brodber, Mervyn Morris, and numerous others.

La Rose co-founded with Andrew Salkey and Kamau Brathwaite, the Caribbean Artists Movement, providing a platform for Caribbean artists, poets, writers, dramatists, actors and musicians. In 1982 he co-founded and directed the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books until 1995. The George Padmore Institute, an archive, library and educational research centre housing materials relating to communities of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe, was established in 1991.

On Thursday at 5 p.m. Horace Ove’s film on La Rose Dream to Change the World will be screened, followed by a short talk by Sarah White on the work of the late John La Rose and presentation of the inaugural Award.

Every year the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and the National Museum and Art Gallery partner to invite an artist to create a limited-edition work of art. The first numbered piece becomes part of the unique Festival Art Collection of the National Museum and Art Gallery. Funds raised from the sale of the signed, numbered works go to the Lit Fest.

The 2013 festival artist is Wendy Nanan whose piece for this year’s event was unveiled on the First floor of the National Museum and Art Gallery, Frederick Street, Port of Spain. Born in Port of Spain in 1955, she obtained the BFA (Painting) in the UK and currently lives and works in Port of Spain. She has been exhibiting regularly since 1985, including shows in France, Britain, Canada, and the Dominican Republic.

Transmission pursues Nanan’s interest in the book form, and the idea of the transfer of knowledge.

A special tour of Port of Spain through the eyes of award winning fictional writers and famous characters began last Saturday.

Based on the critically acclaimed LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago by Kris Rampersad, the LiTTour starts 8 a.m. by prebookings only, leaving from the South Quay compounds of the Public Transport Service Corporation, through the capital city: landscapes and lifestyles; institutions, cultural life, politics, architecture and will be free to persons who, until tomorrow, purchase, a copy of LiTTscapes – Landscapes of Fiction from Trinidad and Tobago.

LiTTscapes presents Trinidad and Tobago through some 60 writers in more than 100 works since 1595. Head of the Guyana Prize for Literature, Professor Al Creighton described LiTTscapes as a work of art; a documentary, a travelogue, a critical work with visual and literary power.  It takes us on a tour of the country, giving some exposure to almost every aspect of life.

In conjunction with LiTTscapes and LiTTours, launched last August, Rampersad has also introduced LiTTributes – events in tribute to Caribbean cultures and creativity which have to date been staged in Guyana, Antigua and Trinidad and Tobago and soon in the UK and USA. They are meant to promote literacy, creativity and interactive appreciation of the global multicultural milieu Trinidad and Tobago.

Customade LiTTributes and LiTTours based on district, theme or body of literature are available on request. For details contact 377-0326 or email and visit:

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is free and open to all. It runs from April 25-28 at NALIS.

Free, secure weekday parking is available in Queens Park Savannah with a free hourly shuttle service to NALIS and back. For more information about the Festival programme, visit

The 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest 

Schedule for Thursday

The 2013 NGC Bocas Lit Fest officially kicks off!

Writers vs. Politicians

with Martin Daly, Paula Gopee-Scoon,

Sunity Maharaj, and Ralph Maraj

Looking ahead to our Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference debates, local luminaries read portraits of politicians — hilarious, ironic, tragic — from classic and contemporary works of Caribbean fiction by Jamaican John Hearne, Barbadian Austin Clarke, Trinidad-born

Monique Roffey, and Guyanese Pauline Melville

9–10 am • Old Fire Station


Getting started

with Marlon James

For new writers: how to find your subject and voice, and break through the barrier of the opening line

10 am–12.30 pm • 1st Floor Seminar Room


Colin Grant and Hannah Lowe

chaired by Ruth Borthwick

Prose and verse portraits of Jamaican fathers, by the authors of Bageye at the Wheel and Chick

10.30–11.30 am • Old Fire Station


Marion Bethel and Cyril Dabydeen chaired by Nicha Selvon-Ramkissoon

Readings by poets from the Bahamas and Guyana

10.30–11.30 am • AV Room


Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné

The first of our New Talent Showcase writers reads from her poems and discusses her work

12–12.45 pm • Old Fire Station


Lunchtime jam

A selection of performance poets take their vibe to the streets of the city. Plus a chance for budding

writers to share their work

12–1 pm • Abercromby Street Arcade


Barbado’ed, dir. Shane Brennan and Paul Arnott

The poorest community in Barbados is the Redlegs, the direct descendants of Scots transported to

Barbados in the 17th century.

Scottish author Chris Dolan discovers what they know about their roots, and what their prospects are

12–1 pm • AV Room


Andrea Stuart and Chris Dolan

chaired by Margaret Busby

Forgotten parts of the history of Barbados, retold by the authors of Sugar in the Blood and Redlegs

1.00–2.00 pm • AV Room


Length matters

with Cyril Dabydeen

There are stories that need a few dozen pages, and some that need a few dozen words. An introduction to short-short fiction

1.30–4 pm • 1st Floor Seminar Room


Beyond a Boundary at 50 with Deryck Murray and Arnold Gibbons, chaired by Kenneth

Ramchand C.L.R. James’s great book on sport, politics, and society celebrates its half-century in 2012. A panel of sportsmen and scholars discuss its continuing relevance

1.30–2.30 pm • Old Fire Station


Lovey and Co.

with John Cowley

The first Trinidadian musicians ever to be recorded were Lovey’s Original Trinidad String Band, in 1912. The author of Carnival, Canboulay, and Calypso tells the story, and discusses Lovey’s legacy with Trinidad Express features editor Deborah John

2–3 pm • AV Room


Courttia Newland and Ifeona Fulani

chaired by Ryan Durgasingh

A reading of new fiction by the authors of The Gospel According to Cane and Ten Days in Jamaica

2.30–3.30 pm • Old Fire Station


Kerry Young and Diana McCaulay

chaired by Giselle Rampaul

Jamaican family histories transformed into fiction by the authors of Pao and Huracan

4–5 pm • Old Fire Station


Alison Donnell and Michael Bucknor talk to Barbara Lalla about the Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature, and our evolving literary canon

4–5 pm • AV Room


Marina Warner

The British author of Alone of All Her Sex and Stranger Magic talks to Lawrence Scott about myths, history, and stories

5–6 pm • Old Fire Station


A Dream to Change the World: A Tribute to John La Rose, dir. Horace Ové, CBE

A documentary about the life of the late John La Rose, poet, essayist, publisher, trade unionist, cultural and political activist, and founder of New Beacon Books and chairman of the George Padmore Institute in London

5–7 pm • AV Room


The presentation of the inaugural Bocas Swanzy Award, recognising distinguished service to Caribbean letters, to John La Rose (posthumously) and Sarah White of New Beacon Books

7–8.30 pm • AV Room

For the original report go to

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