By Shivanee Ramlochan, 2014 Bocas Lit fest blogger
T’is the season for literary merriment once more, friends! In truth, for stalwart book lovers, it’s always that time, but we’re referring to the 2014 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, which is now just over three months away. This year’s festival dates are April 23rd to 27th, on the off-chance that you haven’t already scribbled them down in your planners and calendars.
As we kick off our pre-festival posts, we’d like to hearken back to a very special 2013 event: the inaugural arm of our South+Central NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Since the festival’s inception in 2011, we’ve proudly witnessed Port of Spain come alive to the power of stories and the people who both write and support them. Last November, the Bocas team was thrilled to launch a brand-new festival foray into other, no less prominent regions across Trinidad.
On November 16th, we proudly marched our Bocas banners to the Southland. An animated cadre of authors, literary industry members and bookworms converged at RIK Services Ltd in Gulf City Mall, La Romaine. The morning’s events, moderated by popular historian and Trinidad Guardian columnist, Angelo Bissessarsingh, swiftly morphed into a standing-room only affair. Bissessarsingh, who curates the popular Facebook resource, the Virtual Museum of Trinidad and Tobago, waxed lyrical on the importance of San Fernando in the canon of Trinidadian literary life.
No less enthused was NGC’s Vice President of Human and Corporate Relations, Cassandra Patrovani, who declared it NGC’s “honour to be asked to support the festival”. The NGC, she affirmed, remains “happy to celebrate the diversity and rich legacy of writing” espoused by Bocas.
Patrovani herself read compellingly from Lawrence Scott’s Light Falling on Bamboo, one of three readings that channeled the spirit and character of San Fernando, in times both present and fondly cherished in antiquity. The other two San Fernando-centric novels under the spotlight were Valmiki’s Daughter by Shani Mootoo (orated by Susan Hannays-Abraham) and, it ought come as no surprise, the quintessential coming of age tale, The Year in San Fernando by Michael Anthony.
To much elated applause, Anthony shared readings from The Year of San Fernando himself, and he wasn’t the only South Trinidadian talent to take to the Bocas podium that morning. A mélange of long-established and promising emergent scribes shared their work with the RIK Services audience. Among their rank was Joanne Haynes, author of Sapotee Soil; Michael Cozier, author of Forward Ever! Backward Never! and Willi Chen, whose numerous works include Chutney Power and King of the Carnival. Haynes, Cozier and Chen, whose combined readings represented the morning’s Writing from the Southland feature, each claim Southern Trinidad as their homebase, and their writing pays homage to their locales in both subtle and triumphant ways.
The winner of 2013’s OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Earl Lovelace, read generous servings from his prizewinning work, Is Just a Movie. Prefacing his reading, Lovelace declared it “a good thing” that Bocas has so visibly extended itself to the Southlands”, and that this literary outreach happily coincides with Michael Anthony’s 50th publication anniversary.
Lovelace represented one half of the morning’s Prizewinners Showcase; the other was 2013 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize overall short story winner, Sharon Millar. I first heard Sharon read in 2012, at her New Talent Showcase segment: then, I said it was hard not to think of her as her own, well-deserved success story. It was deeply thrilling to note, therefore, that Millar’s work keeps moving from strength to strength, if her South+Central reading (from a sneak peek of an unpublished novel) is any indication.
Bringing the formal proceedings of the morning to a closing flourish, Bissessarsingh asked the audience to be mindful of a certain honour: the history-making honour of having Willi Chen, Michael Anthony and Earl Lovelace gracing the same stage in one small handful of hours.
The morning’s bookish celebrations wrapped up with a lunchtime, spoken-word jam session, hosted by The 2 Cents Movement. Budding and boisterous lyricists took to the mic to render their rhymes, receiving thunderous applause and a catcall or two, and not just from their youthful peers!
We bade a grateful farewell to San Fernando and headed straight for Chaguanas, our banners and Bocas t-shirts in tow – check in tomorrow, for a matching blog photo-post on the Central half of our South+Central weekend!
All photographs taken by Anna Lucie-Smith, NGC Bocas Lit Fest Programme Coordinator.