In 2013, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest inaugurated a new annual lifetime achievement award to recognise service to Caribbean literature by editors, publishers, critics, broadcasters, and others. The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters is named for the late BBC radio producer (1915–2004) who created a landmark platform for Caribbean writing in the 1940s and 50s through the Caribbean Voices programme, which broadcast fiction and poems by West Indian writers across the region.
Each year the NGC Bocas Lit Fest honours Swanzy’s memory and recognises the achievements of other editors, broadcasters, and critics via the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award. Recipients are chosen by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest organising committee, and the award presentation is a highlight of the festival programme.
Announced in March, the 2018 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award will be presented to Anne Walmsley, writer, editor, and researcher, the former publisher of Longman Caribbean, editor of the landmark anthologies The Sun’s Eye and Facing the Sea, and historian of the Caribbean Artists’ Movement (CAM).
The 2017 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to bookseller Joan Dayal, proprietor of Paper Based Books, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s and the Caribbean’s leading independent bookshops.
The 2016 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to publisher and editor Jeremy Poynting, founder of Peepal Tree Press, which over the past thirty years has become the leading publisher of Caribbean poetry and fiction.
The 2015 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to publisher, editor, and broadcaster Margaret Busby, OBE, co-founder of the publishing house Allison & Busby, in recognition of her decades-long work promoting Caribbean, African, and Black British writers and publishers in the United Kingdom.
The 2014 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr, both professors emeriti of the University of the West Indies, in recognition of their role in establishing West Indian literature as an academic discipline, and their groundbreaking critical work on the writings of Caribbean authors.
The 2013 Bocas Henry Swanzy Award was presented to John La Rose (posthumously) and Sarah White of New Beacon Books. Founded in London in 1966, New Beacon is both a pioneering publishing house and a specialist bookshop focusing on writers and writing from the Caribbean. Over the past four decades, New Beacon has published works by writers such as Wilson Harris, Andrew Salkey, Errol Hill, Dennis Scott, Erna Brodber, Mervyn Morris, and numerous others, and the bookshop in Stroud Green, North London is an epicentre of Caribbean literary and intellectual life in the United Kingdom.