Come March 25, the WORD ALIVE International Literary Festival will be launched in St Lucia, the first full-scale international literary event of magnitude to be held in the island.
Scheduled for March 25 – 28 at the Samaans Park in Gros Islet, the festival is being sponsored by the 1st National Bank of St Lucia Ltd. to the tune of EC$105,000. It evolved from the WORD ALIVE performance poetry competition which began 5 years ago as the brainchild of St Lucian poet and economist, Adrian Augier. The competition brought to the fore several new talents working in a form that was increasingly popular wherever poets met to present their work.
Over the years Augier has contributed outstandingly to the development of the arts and culture of St Lucia and the Caribbean. Currently, he sits as Co-Chair on CARICOM’s Task Force on the development of the region’s cultural industries. Earlier this year, the ANSA group of companies of Trinidad and Tobago named him as their Arts and Letters Laureate for 2010. In addition to being a poet, he is an actor, playwright, director and producer, as well as a skilled costume designer and the leader of Rituals, one of St Lucia’s leading carnival bands, He also created the annual Kalalu World Beat Music Festival, which has brought world-class international performers to the Samaans Park venue, of which he is the proprietor.
The WORD ALIVE International Literary Festival will serve as a special tribute to St Lucian Nobel Laureate, Derek Walcott who celebrated his 80th birthday January 23 this year. Walcott has given the event his blessing and will use it to launch his new book White Egrets. The launch will be held during the opening event on Thursday (March 25) at 7:00 pm. Walcott will be introduced by Professor Emeritus Edward Baugh of Jamaica, hailed as the preeminent Walcott scholar. The evening will also feature a visual art exhibition by secondary school students with the poetry of Derek Walcott as its theme. Local film director Davina Lee will put on a video presentation as her interpretation of the work of several St. Lucian poets, including Walcott and Augier.
Thursday’s opening will also feature a book fair with readings and signings by visiting and local authors. The book fair will be open throughout the festival, along with various exhibitions. Food courts and musical entertainment will form part of the activities.
On Friday (March 26) prominent Trinidadian film maker Frances Anne Solomon will join Mahmood Patel of Barbados, Anita Bully of Dominica and a number of local film experts for a one-day conference on various aspects of the developing Caribbean film industry. Frances Anne Solomon’s films will be screened at Samaans Park on Friday night and are open to the public at a nominal fee of $10.
The signature event of the festival, the WORD ALIVE Performance poetry competition, takes place on Saturday night at 7 pm. Several local poetry talents are expected to compete this year. Internationally acclaimed poets Kei Miller of Jamaica and Roger Bonair-Agard of Trinidad and Tobago will be making guest appearances.
The major international literary stars will dominate the stages on Sunday (March 28). Among those scheduled to read their work are Kei Miller, Edward Baugh, Earl Lovelace and Lorna Goodison. They’ll be joined by local published writers, including McDonald Dixon, John Robert Lee, Kendel Hippolyte and Adrian Augier. Former WORD ALIVE competition winners will make appearances, including Lisa Dublin and Katherine Atkinson.
The organizers are hoping to hold a roundtable with the major writers to give them the opportunity to share their views on the shaping of an agenda for Caribbean arts and literature for a new generation.
Adrian Augier sees the evolution of the 5-year old WORD ALIVE performance poetry programme as a “logical progression” and a “tangible manifestation of movement and growth of the arts in an area that has already earned a place for St. Lucia on the Caribbean stage.”
The St Lucian arts fraternity have voiced their unanimous support for the festival and applauded the sponsor, 1st National Bank St. Lucia for showing genuine interest in the arts.
“1st National has always shown a real interest in the development of the creative arts and are putting their money behind their support. I have always found them willing to listen and to help in whatever way they could,” says St. Lucian poet John Robert Lee. “In the absence of the M&C Fine Arts Awards, and the apparent lack of direction from other quarters, it is very encouraging that 1st National has stepped up to the plate at this time,” added Lee.
All the events of the festival are open to the public.