Don’t misunderstand; even if I weren’t part of the merrily busy Bocas staff, I would be no less in love with this festival. I’d still be present at as many of the events as I could reasonably stuff into my day. I’d still leave home early in the morning, to return long past the sunset, weary, my mind still turning a thousand gears of creative hyperstimulation. I’d still be sitting on the amphitheatre steps of the Trinidad and Tobago National Library on the festival’s last day, thinking that the next Bocas can’t come too soon.
The fact that we’re celebrating a second Bocas should, I hope, put paid to the notion that an entire festival seeking to highlight the importance of books, reading and publishing is flighty, fanciful, or worse, non-sustainable. So much of what makes us of these islands has its genesis in a singular, inimitable style of storytelling. How can it be claimed that the honouring of Caribbean and Caribbean diaspora stories is unworthy of every effort we can make to keep sharing those tales?
I confess that one of the best curated memories I possess of last year’s Bocas was sitting outside the Old Fire Station, after a New Talent Showcase that featured the readings of an exciting voice in prose fiction, and a Cropper Foundation co-alumni, Alake Pilgrim. While speaking with her about her work, two schoolgirls strolled by, the trail end of their conversation within earshot.
Girl I: What it have going on here? Something was advertising in the papers, ent?
Girl II: I eh know, nah. I think might be some book thing, but I eh know.
Perhaps it’s reactionary of me to be sad. I know that not everyone likes reading. Not every one thrills to the sight of writers they’ve only up until that point encountered in the pages of their favourite novels, their best-beloved poetry collections, their most fiercely defended non-fiction paperbacks. I’m not saying that the country should grind to a halt to take the Bocas Festival in… but it worries me that basic awareness is lacking. It worries me that festivals like these, which seek, at their core, to be all-embracing, all-encompassing, generously ecumenical in outreach, instead often appear to be elitist, exclusive and esoteric, fora wherein only red wine is sipped, where only Standard English is allowed. People… please, perish the thought.
I believe that, on Bocas’ Eve, if I want to transmit one message over all other messages about this celebration, it is this:
All are invited; all are welcome.
Let’s not be literary exclusivists at the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Let’s be lovers of books. A full day of events kicks off bright and early at 9 am. I hope to see you there, with your notepads/ novels for signing/ fresh enthusiasm in tow!
(Also posted at Novel Niche: A Place for Books)