This and many new initiatives would be added to the festival’s already packed calendar. Festival founder and director, Marina Salandy-Brown, members of the Festival committee, sponsors and other stakeholders gathered last Wednesday for the media launch of the fourth edition of Bocas Lit Fest at National Library and Information Service (NALIS), Port-of-Spain.
Salandy-Brown listed these new features and changes including a one day extension of the festival when it takes place from April 23-April 27. The crime writing workshop is one of two all-day creative writing workshops to take place during the Festival. The first, a Young Adult Writing workshop would be delivered by prize-winning UK author, Keith Gray and is being done in collaboration with the Canadian charity, CODE. The crime fiction writing workshop would take place through the Lit Fest’s partnership with the British Council and is part of the “Scotland Presents” initiative.
“This is a big and popular genre and surprisingly for a country like ours where crime is at the top of the national and personal list of worries, our literature hardly deals with it,” Salandy-Brown said. This workshop would take place on April 25, which has been dubbed “Bloody Friday” after the “Bloody Scotland” festival, that country’s first international crime writing festival to be held in September.
This year, the Bocas Children’s Festival will be sponsored by NGC. Director of the Children’s Festival, Danielle Delon thanked the company for its support as she highlighted the importance of such a venture. Referring to an incident last week when ten schoolchildren were suspended after video of a fracas in Port-of-Spain was circulated on the internet, Delon said children who are not supported by the adults around them need to know they are not alone. “Let the children know love exists, there are adults who care,” she said. The NGC Children’s Festival begins on March 29 in Tobago and continues at venues across the country every Saturday until the Lit Fest begins. NGC, celebrating its first year of sponsorship of the Children’s Festival, has created a new mascot: a friendly young dragon inspired by the Bocas del Dragon or the sea channels between Trinidad and Tobago, after which the festival is named. Throughout the children’s festival, attendees would have the chance to enter a competition to name the new mascot.
Tobago would also get a taste of the Festival as for the first time, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest Tobago will be held on March 28 and 29.
Salandy-Brown said attendance and popularity of the festival continues to grow: increasing from 3000 attendees in its first year in 2011 to 4,500 last year. The programme planned this year includes attendance and participation of local, regional and international literary stars including Lorna Goodison and Linton Kwesi Johnson from Jamaica, Guyana’s Grace Nichols, John Agard and David Dabydeen, St Kitts’ Caryl Phillips, Bernardine Evaristo of the United Kingdom, Trinidad and Tobago’s Neil Bissoondath, Malika Booker, Anthony Joseph, Amanda Smyth and Robert Antoni, Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo and India’s Nilanjana Roy.
Salandy-Brown said next year’s festival would include focus on writers from Spanish, French and Dutch Caribbean regions.
As part of the “Scotland Presents” initiative, there would also be presentation of the one woman play, He La at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop and four young Trinidadian and three young persons from the region will be heading to Scotland in July to practice journalism during the Commonwealth Games.
To commemorate Port-of-Spain’s 100th anniversary as a city being celebrated this year, there will be readings from titles that have celebrated the capital city. This year, the festival would include a session hosted at Vidia Naipaul’s restored family residence by the famed writer’s cousin, Neil Bissondath. A tribute to Jamaican dub poet, Mikey Smith is planned as well as a book launch by the new Caribbean imprint, Peekash.
On the additional day, there will be Sunday Launch, which would feature the debut of new books on fiction and poetry. Panel discussions, similar to previous years, would focus on literary and non-literary matters including how literature and the arts can address crime and violence, how today’s post-colonial authors are rethinking the historical novel, the contemporary relevance of dub poetry and how books and reading can change lives. Film screenings, panel discussions, readings, workshops at the festival’s headquarters at NALIS and spoken word sessions at the Brian Lara Promenade are also planned for the festival.
The festival ends with the Verses Bocas Poetry Slam, which takes place at Central Bank. New this year is the introduction of festival radio, an initiative sponsored by FLOW. Sessions will be streamed live and listeners would be able to enjoy daily programming for the duration of the festival.
Throughout the festival, there would also be awards for emerging and established writers of the region including the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize, the Hollick Arvon Caribbean Writers Prize, the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature and the 2014 Allen Prize for young writers.