More Than A Literary Festival

NGC Bocas Lit Fest explores life-writing

Life writing — in books ranging from memoirs to family histories — is set to be a major focus at this year’s NGC Bocas Lit Fest, with readings and discussions featuring a fascinating lineup of T&T authors.

A rapidly growing, popular genre with locally based writers, life writing records real-life personal and community stories. A special programme of events at the annual festival — running from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 April and based at the National Library in downtown Port of Spain — puts a diverse array of memoirists and biographers under the spotlight.

The lineup includes the winner of this year’s OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction. Ira Mathur, well known as a journalist, will discuss her category-winning memoir, Love the Dark Days alongside Brian Samuel, Grenadian author of Song for My Father, and Simone Dalton, Trinidad-born, North America-based winner of the 2020 RBC Taylor Emerging Writer Prize for non-fiction. The session starts at 11 am on Sunday 30 April.

Other writers, with backgrounds ranging from the airplane cockpit to the banking boardroom, have recently made their mark in life writing, and are eager to share their stories at the 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Wendy Yawching, the first woman captain of T&T’s national airline, will present passages from her memoir The Courage to Fly in a panel also featuring retired Managing Director of Republic Bank Ronald Harford (Nil Illegitimi Carborundum) and professional life coach Angela Laquis-Sobrian (Breaking Free: A Journey from Trauma to Empowerment), at 4.30 pm on Sunday 30 April.

Linking larger-than-life soca stardom to the NGC Bocas Lit Fest is Elizabeth “Lady” Montano, manager and biographer of her multiple award-winning son Machel Montano. In her book King of Soca, published to acclaim in 2022, “Lady” reflects on Machel’s supernova path to success. She is slated for a one-on-one session in conversation with veteran music producer and radio host Keron “Sheriff” Thompson, on Saturday 29 April at 2 pm.

A crucial aspect of life writing centres family histories: their legacy, history, and development through T&T’s growth as a nation. Three beautifully produced non-fiction books of this nature will be highlighted at the festival. Cheryl Bowles, founder of Cher-Mère and representative of the Waldron family, will highlight the Waldrons’ achievements as documented in The Ladder We Ascend. Joining her is anthropologist Dylan Kerrigan, whose Growing Up Woodbrook, written with Ken Jaikaransingh, has already achieved bestseller status at independent Port of Spain bookseller Paper Based Bookshop. Rounding out this panel is Beverly Scobie, whose Via the Round About chronicles the achievements of the Scobie family from 1819 to the present day. They appear on Sunday 30 April at 3 pm.

Members of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest eager to try writing their own life stories also have a chance to benefit from expert advice, at a workshop to be led by veteran Jamaican publisher and editor Ian Randle. In the session “What makes a great memoir?”, Randle will delve into the key elements of any good memoir, and what publishers look for in an autobiography. Running from 3.30 to 5.30 pm on Friday 28 April, the workshop has a fee of TT$100 and requires pre-registration at

The full programme for the 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest is online at

The National Gas Company is title sponsor of the festival; First Citizens, OCM, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, NLCB, and the British Council are main sponsors; Massy Foundation and UWI are sponsors.


2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest — Life Writing Events

Saturday 29 April, 2 pm

One-on-one with Elizabeth “Lady” Montano, hosted by Keron “Sheriff” Thompson
Venue: AV Room, National Library

Sunday 30 April, 11 am

Ira Mathur, Brian Samuel, Simone Dalton, chaired by Paula Lindo

Venue: AV Room, National Library

Sunday 30 April, 3 pm

Cheryl Bowles, Dylan Kerrigan, Beverly Scobie, chaired by Glenroy Taitt

Venue: AV Room, National Library

Sunday 30 April, 4:30 pm

Ronald Harford, Angela Laquis-Sobrian, Wendy Yawching, chaired by Franka Philip

Venue: AV Room, National Library

FREE, no tickets Required

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