More Than A Literary Festival

The Swanzy Diaries


Sponsored by NGC
Sponsored by NGC


Apr 30 2023


1:00 pm - 2:00 pm


AV Room
NALIS, Hart and Abercromby St., Port of Spain, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

The event is finished.

Book Launch

The newly published Selected Diaries and Writings of Henry Swanzy offer an intimate self-portrait of the Irish-born BBC Caribbean Voices editor who played a crucial role in the development of Caribbean writers and writing in the 1940s. Alongside an introduction by Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press and readings from the diaries, a panel of literary and scholarly editors share their insights on the editorial role and those who shape our literature behind the scenes. With Stephen Connolly, Ronald Cummings, Kelly Baker Josephs, and Lisa Outar, chaired by Nicholas Laughlin.

Stephen Connolly
Stephen Connolly
Lisa Outar
Lisa Outar
Guyana, USA
Prize Judge
ronald cummings NEW
Ronald Cummings
Canada, Jamaica
Nicholas Laughlin
Trinidad & Tobago
Kelly Baker Josephs
Kelly Baker Josephs
Jamaica, USA
Jeremy Poynting

Frequently Asked Questions

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest is held every year during the last week of April/ first week of May in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago (with the exception of the 2020 Festival which was postponed to 18–20 September due to the COVID-19 pandemic). 

 The NGC Bocas Lit Fest takes place at the National Library and the adjoining Old Fire Station in downtown Port of Spain. 

Entrance to the Festival Village is free (unless otherwise stated), and almost all of our events – including readings, panel discussions, film screenings, performances and children’s events – are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first-come basis and everyone is welcome. 

There are two notable exceptions:

1) The First Citizens National Poetry Slam semi-finals and finals are ticketed events. We recommend purchasing tickets early to avoid disappointment! Note: While in-person performance restrictions remain in place, the FCNPS will be broadcast on national TV in Trinidad and Tobago so everyone can enjoy. 

2) You must register in advance to reserve your spot in our writing workshops. You can register online, by phone or by email.  We do have free workshops, but most have a small fee. 

Premium subscribers to our Friends of the Bocas Lit Fest community are entitled to discounts on ticketed/ paid events, as well as reserved seating/ priority access to select events. 

Our Festival programme is developed around specific annual themes and generally features recently published Caribbean authors. We showcase the writers longlisted and shortlisted for the major literary awards administered by Bocas Lit Fest, as well as the independent panels of experts and writers who judge them. We also review nominations from publishers and our programme partners to determine the most exciting new voices to showcase each year.

We welcome submissions from authors wishing to participate in the Festival, but we have limited openings for writers who don’t fall into one of the above categories. We follow up on submissions/ queries from authors that fit with our programme plans and themes for upcoming Festivals.

If you’re interested in participating in the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, send us an email at with an author bio, book synopsis and any critical reviews/ endorsements for consideration. All writers are welcome to participate in our Stand & Deliver series.

We have several events during the Festival, and year round, that seek out and support promising new talent:

  • Writing workshops for all levels (advance registration required)
  • Stand and Deliver is our main platform for new writers who want to read their work for peers and a festival audience. This is an open-mic event for writers of all genres. While the Festival remains virtual, we’ll put out an online open call for submissions from writers, and the Stand & Deliver will be a pre-recorded virtual event within the Festival programme (and throughout the year if interest from writers is high!).
  • Writers First is our series of free seminars for budding and self-published writers on key areas of the book business, led by publishing experts. You can access the recordings full of advice from industry professional in the content library of Friends of Bocas
  • Our New Talent Showcase and New Writing events shine a spotlight on promising new writers, many of whom have gone on to be published after appearing on our stage.
  • The Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize (formerly the Hollick Arvon) supports an emerging Caribbean writer in completing a work in progress. 

The Bocas Lit Fest does not sell or distribute books, so books by authors appearing at the Festival (and many other titles) are sold by independent booksellers who set up booths in our Festival Village. Make sure to purchase early so you’re first in line for book signing!

Beyond books, the Festival Village has an array of exciting local products, crafts and services from specialist vendors — everything from artisan chocolate to handmade clothing, jewellery and crafts. If you’re interested in having your own booth at the Festival, contact us at for a copy of our vendor registration form and to get more information on renting a booth space at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. 

Since 2017 we’ve been livestreaming the events at the Old Fire Station, and those videos are available on our YouTube channel here. We have audio recordings of Festival events from before 2017, and those are available via Soundcloud here.  If you are interested in using or sharing a recording from the festival, please contact us for permission at

From 2021, Festival recordings will remain publicly available for a limited time before being archived for exclusive use by Friends of Bocas Lit Fest subscribers. 

Yes! We recruit a large team of volunteers to help at the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest. When we can safely resume in-person events in Trinidad and Tobago, we will open recruitment. 

In April 2021, we launched an online community platform called Friends of Bocas. Historically, we have relied on corporate sponsorship. Now, you have the opportunity to support our work and increase our impact through an annual donation that gives you access to this online community.  By joining our Friends community, you support our work and gain access to so much more than a literary festival. It is your gateway to exclusive workshops and content, intimate sessions with our community of writers, and a network of like-minded Friends from across the industry! We invite you to become a Friend of the Bocas Lit Fest and help us advance this Caribbean literary movement in every island, country and diaspora to ensure our sustainability for generations to come. Find out more here

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