In 2019, the Tobago Writers Guild started a public lecture series with the hope of sparking thought-provoking discussions about life in Tobago.
In an effort to expand the series, the group recently started thematic lectures with the first being Tracing the Evolution of Life in Tobago.
It was introduced on May 20 with an online lecture on Tobago’s geology.
Marketed as Tobago Rocks, the lecture featured geologists Julia Farrell and Carol Telemaque who shared with participants the dynamics of Tobago’s geological origins, underwater reservoirs, and minerals.
“In the geology lecture, we spoke about the mineral differences between Tobago and Trinidad which come from the different origins of the islands," said Leroy George, the guild's pubic relations officer.
“Immediately after that lecture, we concluded that we wanted to bring all our lectures, for a while, under one umbrella title which was the start of the Tracing the Evolution of Life in Tobago theme.”
George is also chairman of the group’s lecture series which, he said, was created to promote the literary arts in Tobago.
The group has hosted a variety of events and programmes to support Tobagonian authors, spoken-word artistes, poets, and songwriters.
“The most important thing we have for these creatives is our open mic which we do on a monthly basis.
“We also have an open mic for children, which is the same thing but for younger people.”
The group also has an annual reading festival where different Tobagonian writers are given the chance to showcase their work.
But in an effort to expand the group’s activities and reach, the group decided to start the lecture series to, primarily, feature Tobago academics, explore academic literature, and have discussions on Tobago’s culture, history, and geography.
The first lecture was on calypso and was presented by calypsonian Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool.
“Since then we’ve had presentations by quite a few people including the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonzales.”
Gonzales’s lecture in 2019 looked at reparations for the Caribbean.
While the lectures were usually held at physical locations, this changed last year because of covid19 and the lectures moved online.
The final lecture – Tracing the Evolution of Life in Tobago – the initial theme of the thematic lectures, explored the First Peoples of Tobago. The presenters were chief of the Santa Rosa First People’s Community Ricardo Bharath Hernandez, Vincentian screenwriter Akley Olton, and Tobago historian Dr Rita Pemberton.
George said he hopes the lectures will help Tobagonians better understand and appreciate the island’s unique evolutionary history.
“We have all our lectures on the Tobago Writers Guild YouTube channel. We’re making an inventory of the lectures.
“These lectures are extremely interactive. People are encouraged to ask questions while the lectures are going on and even after it takes place.
“As much as we are trying to gather a wealth of knowledge of facts, we are also trying to gather a wealth of knowledge as to where we as Tobagonians are in terms of our mindset and how we feel about things.”
At the end of July the group will look at how Tobagonians are coping with the covid19 pandemic.
While the previous lectures featured prominent academics and notable figures, George said the covid19-themed lectures will feature the contributions of Tobagonians from all walks of life.
Outside of its lecture series, the group will continue building on its mission of education by introducing an adult literacy programme on the island.
In a few months, the group expects to establish a publishing house.
“The focus of that publishing house will be to assist young writers having their books edited, printed, published and even advertised by the Tobago Writers Guild Publishing House.
“That’s the most important thing that we’re probably working on right now.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Tobago Writers Guild and its public lecture series, can do so by following the group’s Facebook page.