WHILE pointing out that the creative industries are vital to TT’s economic development, NGC Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown said while there are state agencies supporting music, film and fashion, there was no official literature agency.
Salandy-Brown went on to say, however, that the NGC Bocas Lit Fest had become just that. “As they say, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. Over the past nine years, we have had to grow into a national and regional literature development agency, to make sure the potential of our writers does not go to waste,” she said.
She made the comments yesterday at the 2019 launch of the annual literary festival held at the National Library, Hart and Abercromby Streets, Port of Spain. This year’s festival runs from May 1-5. The theme of this year’s festival is Border Crossings.
The festival also announced the ending of the Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature, which “recognised Caribbean authors writing books aimed at readers aged 12-18.” Salandy-Brown said for the past six years it partnered with Canadian charity CODE to administer the award.
Salandy-Brown said it was “with sadness” that she announced its end. This year will be the final year for the award, “at least in the name of the Canadian philanthropist (William) Bill Burt, who died in 2017.” Burt’s foundation has changed its funding priorities but, with CODE, the Bocas Lit Fest has started to look for a replacement donor for what she described as “this critical prize.”
“We are hopeful that a Caribbean philanthropist will see the necessity, as Canadian Bill Burt did, of giving our young people reading matter that is relevant to them to assist in their personal and intellectual growth, which benefits our societies,” she said.
The 2019 Burt Award jury, led by Jamaican publisher Ian Randle, was able to shortlist six titles from 46 submissions by authors across ten Caribbean countries, with four of the shortlisted six being from TT. The winner and two finalists, Salandy-Brown said, will be announced at a special event on May 2.
It was also announced that Randle was the 2019 winner of the Bocas Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, a lifetime achievement award to recognise service to Caribbean literature by editors, publishers, critics and others.
The festival will feature some of the best-known international and regional literary figures including Jamaican Booker prize winner Marlon James, Trinidad-born novelist Claire Adams, Jamaican-born Canadian speculative fiction writer and editor Nalo Hopkinson, award-winning novelist and screenwriter Caryl Phillips, and UK novelist Marina Warner, who like Phillips has Kittitian roots. There will also be a tribute to celebrated TT novelist Earl Lovelace.