Bocas Lit Fest kicked off its tenth anniversary by unveiling aspects of a year-long schedule that included a visit by Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo.
The open house event was held last Wednesday at Bocas’ new home at The Writers Centre, St Clair to announce the NGC Bocas Lit Fest from May 1-3 and other plans for 2020.
Founder, festival director and former president Marina Salandy-Brown in her remarks pointed to 2019 Burt Code Award winner Jeanelle Frontin and lamented that since the death of the donor the young adult prize had ended. She said that Bocas hoped to find a new sponsor to reinstate the important prize.
“There isn’t enough literature written by Caribbean writers for Caribbean readers. Too much of the stuff that young people have to read is not our experience. And that has a cultural impact. So we are really grateful to Jeanelle and other (writers).
Because it is really important that we give young people the right kind of literature to read because all of that helps us in creating a better society.
Which is one the things we try to do – to use literature and ideas to create better people and a better society and a better democracy.”
One of the events planned for the year is a Family Reading Circle for children aged seven and under which will be hosted on the first Saturday of every month, from 10 am to 12 noon. Salandy-Brown said the teaching of literature can be so stolid and Bocas hoped to reintroduce the fun of reading.
he said she can hardly believe that it has been ten years and the team have been “toiling for a long time”. She added a lot of work has been done recently to strengthen the organisation as they plan to carry on for the next ten years.
She noted that with there has been a lot of changes with the Non-Profit Organisations Act and Bocas, though an NGO, had to make some changes as well.
“A lot of small organisations need to really clean up their act. Not that ours ever needed cleaning up. But it’s a big job and it’s going to be a particularly onerous jobs for NGOs. And so we are delighted we’ve got a president who I’d like to introduce to you.”
The new president Rani Lakhan-Narace, who is also the executive chairman of Trinnre Insurance, said she was privileged and honoured to be president of an organisation making such a mark on the landscape of TT and the region.”
She said with Bocas’s new home it will be used for programmes during the year. She explained that while Bocas puts on a world class festival the organisation operates throughout the year to develop writers from the country and the region.
Salandy-Brown outlined a number of activities and events for the year including literary weekends where top writers will be brought to TT to host workshops, readings, school visits and socials.
She reported that so far Bocas has booked Jamaican novelist Curdella Forbes, 2019 Booker Prize winner Bernadine Evaristo and sci-fi writer from Barbados Karen Lord.
The celebration of the tenth anniversary is also being commemorated by a special work of art gifted by visual artist Jackie Hinkson depicting the National Library building and the Old Fire Station where the festival has been held. The art work will be used as the festival poster for 2020 and then auctioned off.
At the event tokens were given to sponsors National Gas Company, First Citizens, University of the West Indies, Community Development Ministry and Massy Foundation in the form of framed letters and poetry.