A report from The Barbados Advocate. Our thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.
AWARD-winning author, H. Nigel Thomas, is calling for more buildings and public spaces in Barbados and the wider region to be named after local writers.
He also made a call for the leaders in the Caribbean to come together to form a regional publishing house, funded by regional governments, to assist the many writers whose work is essentially falling by the wayside.
The respected author drew reference to the fact that very little space is allocated for literature in the print, radio and television and that in other countries, such as Canada, libraries, streets and highways are named after writers.
“I congratulate you here in Barbados for naming this Hall. I hope you will name something after Kamau Brathwaite, I hope you would name something after Austin Clarke, Cecil Foster and eventually Robert Sandiford and all those who come afterwards,” he said.
Thomas, a Vincentian by birth who resides in Canada, was sharing his thoughts as he delivered the featured address at the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment 22nd Annual Awards Ceremony held in the Frank Collymore Hall on Saturday night, where he also urged writers to band together to lobby governments for greater assistance.
While complimenting Barbados for the work being done to promote writing, saying he is “impressed”, Thomas lamented that writers generally are in a “dire” situation, moreso Anglophone Caribbean writers.
“If literature is humanity’s psychic mirror and if we accept that we need such a mirror, why then is there so little support for Caribbean writers?” he queried.
“Thanks to secondary and tertiary education, there are more people writing in the Caribbean today than in any other time in the history. And I mean more, even in terms of per capita. Yet today, writers residing in the English Caribbean have fewer opportunities for professional publishers than writers of 30 or even 60 years ago.”
The retired professor noted that during a recently held awards ceremony in St. Vincent, several writers, even those who won the awards, expressed their frustration of the large number of manuscripts that they had merely sitting around. “They did not know what to do with them.”
The author told the audience, “The unfortunate thing is that self-published authors discover that there are many biases against them. The infrastructure that exists for book distribution and promotion is not available to them and their books are rarely eligible for literary awards. They never usually in the part of the world where I live, no journal review them. And they are ineligible for literary awards. Our writers should not be facing such a bleak situation,” he stated.
“Independent nations worthy of that name, should offer greater op-portunities and support to their writers. All Caribbean countries have a department of Culture and one would think that support for writers would be a major component. I can see that in Barbados; …in St. Vincent, I know that it isn’t…”
He noted that while there is some recognition, support is generally allocated to Carnival and sports.
Highlighting the strides made by Canada over the past 60 years, he noted that there are powerful writer organisations which assist in professionally publishing work, offer travel expenses, facilitate readings and added that public lending rights are paid if books are placed in public libraries, to name a few.
“You are going to have to form those organisations and liaise with one another. My hope is that the result would be that you could get some sort of regional publishing house that is funded by all the governments.”
He noted that in the province of Quebec alone, one million writers produce up to 80 to 100 professionally published books per year. He said looking at the combined population numbers in the Caribbean, there is great potential for professional writers.
Thomas’ visit was facilitated by the High Commission of Canada. On February 1, he will receive the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Achieve-ment Award.