Bocas Lit Fest

Image via Burt Award for Caribbean Literature.

The NGC Bocas Lit Fest has become the place where Caribbean authors want their books to debut, and with 2021 already shaping up to be a bumper year for Caribbean literature, the festival programme includes a slew of brand-new titles, by established authors as well as exciting newcomers.

The 11th NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual literary festival, runs from Friday 23rd - Sunday 25th April as a purely virtual festival and includes readings by authors from across the Caribbean and the diaspora — from historical to speculative fiction and hard-hitting poetry, performances, discussions and more.

Fiction features

The Bread the Devil Knead, written in Trinidad Creole by Lisa Allen-Agostini, presents a story of redemption, salvation, and moving forward in hope, despite central themes of tragedy and loss. It debuts on Sunday 25 April, in an event also featuring Barbadian author Cherie Jones, whose novel How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, published in January, has already won rave reviews.

Allen-Agostini is pleased to launch her novel at the festival: “I say this all the time, but nevertheless it bears repeating - the NGC Bocas Lit Fest is one of the most important literary events for Caribbean writers and Caribbean writing.”

Also in the Sunday schedule is the latest novel by Barbara Lalla, a Jamaican author long based in Trinidad. For Lalla, participating in the NGC Bocas Lit Fest “means everything …. the festival has “contributed immeasurably to Caribbean art and letters by nurturing and projecting our writers.”

Her novel One Thousand Eyes sets forth a Caribbean in crisis. She describes it as, “a shattered landscape where a group of children who deserve the best of possible worlds—strong, brave, compassionate children—awake into a nightmare and do their best. It is a book about the fragility of our world.” Lalla will be joined on Sunday by Jamaican-British writer Leone Ross, author of the newly published novel This One Sky Day.

Poetry premieres

New poetry is also in the Bocas mix — US-based Trinidadian Rosamond S King offers up her new collection All the Rage. “The book begins with the poem ‘This is for you’ …. and All the Rage is for you, no matter who you are.” Her inclusion in the festival means that “readers and other writers in the Caribbean are engaging my writing, an engagement I value deeply”, she says.

King is joined on Saturday 24 April by Desiree C.Bailey, a Trinidad-born US-based poet, whose debut book What Noise Against the Cane was recently published.

More writing

The 2021 NGC Bocas Lit Fest programme offers a range of other recent books to be discovered, from the latest novels by Lawrence Scott and Lauren Francis-Sharma, and new fiction by Jamaican writers Alecia McKenzie and Wandeka Gayle to a biography of Toussaint Louverture by Oxford professor Sudhir Hazareesingh, and another of jazz musician Shake Keane by Philip Nanton, with a lot more in between.

An all-inclusive festival

The 2021 festival holds something for all in three days of back-to-back events. Audiences last year were delighted that the virtual nature of the festival added new favourites, from a comedy mini-series and tributes, to author interviews and archival gems, offered in a continuous stream between scheduled events. This year, the festival promises more of the new fan-favourites.

Saturday and Sunday mornings (24 & 25 April) start with engaging events for children —a virtual play and a workshop, wonderful animations and storytelling. The film Port of Spain - “A Writer’s Heaven” premieres on Saturday. It’s a virtual tour of Trinidad’s capital, with eye-opening insights into the city’s landmarks and history.

Sunday’s current affairs debate, with a focus on The Way Ahead for the Caribbean, will be especially insightful as the region battles an unabating pandemic and new natural disasters. T&T Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, current Head of Caricom, environmentalist Prof John Agard, and global economist Dr Justin Ram respond to our preoccupations with the help of host Natalee Legore.

On Saturday evening, it’s a celebration as all eyes turn to the virtual prize announcement ceremonies for the Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers prize, and the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize, for the best Caribbean book published in 2020.

The festival’s grand finale will launch the 100 Caribbean Books That Made Us, a crowdsourced list of favourite Caribbean books in all genres, nominated by everyday readers. Jamaican Poet Laureate Olive Senior, US publisher Johnny Temple, and Barbadian scholar Aaron Kamugisha will help to reveal the list and examine its insights into the reading tastes and habits in the Caribbean.

Tune in

The full programme is on the festival website, www.bocaslitfest.com, and all events will be streamed, YouTube and Facebook platforms. It’s free and no booking is required.

NGC is the title sponsor of the festival, First Citizens is lead sponsor, OCM, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts are main sponsors, and NLCB, Massy Foundation and The UWI are sponsors.

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