Jamaican literature feted in Out of Many Lit Festival

The Voice reviews an important event of the Out of Many Lit Festival. The event featured Poet Laureate of Jamaica Olive Senior, in conversation with the UK’s Poet Laureate Simon Armitage; Jamaican poet Linton Kwesi Johnson, in conversation with award-winning journalist Gary Younge; and other literary highlights. The festival began in May and runs until February 2023 and is being held to celebrate Jamaica’s 60 years of independence and the impact Jamaican culture and heritage has had on the UK and the world. [Also see previous post Jamaica Society Leeds Out of Many Lit Program.]

Jamaican literature was celebrated alongside some of the top names in the literary world as part of the Out of Many Lit festival.

Out of Many Lit, organised by the Jamaica Society Leeds, saw the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Olive Senior, in conversation with the UK’s Poet Laureate Simon Armitage at the Howard Assembly Room for an evening of literary excellence. This was followed the following day by a rare literary treat for creative writers wanting to explore heritage in their work – a masterclass and brunch hosted by Olive Senior.

There was a standing ovation for Jamaican poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson at an event which saw him in conversation with the award-winning journalist Gary Younge, with LKJ still humorous and insightful in his 70th year. “I just want to thank the Jamaica Society Leeds for inviting me to participate in this long festival of celebration,” said Linton Kwesi Johnson. “I am not a Jamaican nationalist but I am a Jamaican patriot and I am proud of my Jamaican roots.”

Journalist Gary Younge paid tribute to LKJ saying: “In 1981 I saw Linton doing this poem Inglan is a Bitch – I grew up in Stevenage around not many Black people around the time of the uprisings in Brixton and Toxteth and elsewhere. I didn’t know you could do that… I didn’t know you could get up and say your truth, whatever your truth was… that you could call a place out, that you could say ‘Well, this is my reason’ and you might get a hearing for that. I’m considerably older now but I still remember – it gave me confidence, it gave me heart it gave me a sense of who I might be in this place.”

Out of Many Lit also saw Jamaica’s much-loved Calabash International Literary Festival bring a hint of the Treasure beach vibe to Leeds for a day-long literary takeover of Leeds Central Library with a stellar line-up of writers of Jamaican heritage, curated by Calabash co-founders Kwame Dawes and Justine Henzell.

Some writers joked that they initially thought they would be going to Jamaica and not Leeds for Calabash Presents – but declared they were delighted to take part nonetheless. Kwame is an internationally-acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning writer and was in sparkling conversation with Yvonne Brewster OBE, a revered author, director and founder of the UK’s oldest Black theatre company Talawa.

Four of the hottest UK fiction writers of Jamaica heritage shared their work at Calabash Presents in an event called Fyah: Sara Collins (Confessions of Frannie Langton), Kerry Young (Pao, Gloria) Alex Wheatle (Cane Warriors; Kemosha of the Caribbean) and Courttia Newland (A River Called Time; Small Axe). Both Courttia and Alex spoke about and drew attention to the killing of unarmed Chris Kaba by police ahead of their readings.

There was also lyrical fire from poets Raymond Antrobus (All the Names Given), Roger Robinson (A Portable Paradise) and Tanya Shirley (The Merchant of Feathers).

Binta saw a moving tribute to Jean Binta Breeze from Jason Allen-Paisant, Malika Booker, Kadish Morris and Musufing Whyles. [. . .]

Festival director Susan Pitter said: “If somebody had said to me at any time in my life that, in the space of a few days, I would be introducing a writer at the top of their game, Gary Younge, an absolute icon of literature and activism Linton Kwesi Johnson, the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Olive Senior, the Poet Laureate of the UK, Simon Armitage, and be part of a festival organised by the Jamaica Society Leeds involving both young and emerging writers who are going to be the future of literature as well as some of the brightest stars in African Caribbean literature that this city I would have said ‘A lie you ah tell.’”

The festival began in May and runs until February 2023 and is being held to celebrate Jamaica’s 60 years of independence and the impact Jamaican culture and heritage has had on the UK and the world.

Its next events are Rebellion to Romance: The Show, starring Brinsley Forde, Dennis Bovell, Janet Kay and Carroll Thompson at Leeds Playhouse on October 22, and photographer Vanley Burke, regarded as the Godfather of Black British photography in conversation at Leeds Central Library, Room 700 on October 26. [. . .]

For full article, see https://www.voice-online.co.uk/entertainment/arts-culture/2022/10/17/jamaican-literature-feted-in-out-of-many-lit-festival

[Photos above from Jamaica Society Leeds: 1) Jamaican poet and activist Linton Kwesi Johnson performing; 2) Jamaica Society Chair Dorothy Stewart; Olive Senior and Simon Armitage.]

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