Bocas Lit Fest Set to be a Grand and Festive Affair

National Library, Port-of-Spain

No doubt about it – the 2011 Bocas Lit Fest looks set to be a spectacular literary extravaganza!  Scheduled for April in Trinidad & Tobago, it’s going to be a grand affair featuring over 50 events spanning 4 days (April 28 – May 1). Details of the program were released Tuesday (March 22) during the official launch at the National Library in Port-of-Spain.

The main venue will be the National Library and the adjoining Old Fire Station in downtown Port-of-Spain, in the heart of the city’s urban buzz. An entire block will be transformed into the Festival Village, with some performances open to viewing from the street. A booksellers’ section with hundreds of titles on sale and a refreshments area will also be set up.

Scores of participants are expected to attend, including some 50 writers, publishers, newspaper and magazine editors and literary scholars from all over the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

The list of participating authors reads like a who’s who in Caribbean literature. It includes Jamaican writer Lorna Goodison, winner of two literary awards including the 2008 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for her memoir From Harvey Rive; Marlon James, author of the novel The Book of Night Women which last year won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; St. Lucian poet and winner of the 1994 James Rodway Memorial Prize, Jane King Hippolyte; Trinidadian-Bahamian poet and last year’s winner of the Aldeburgh Prize, Christian Campbell; Grenadian writer and poet, Merle Collins; Trinidadian literary icon, Earl Lovelace, author of  The Dragon Can’t Dance, and several other classics; Tiphanie Yanique, author of the bestselling How to Escape from a Leper Colony; Lisa Allen-Agostini, author and co-editor of the Trinidad Noir anthology and founder of the Allen Prize for Young Writers;  Guyanese author and 2006 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize winner Mark McWatt and numerous others.

Margaret Busby, co-founder of Allison & Busby

Coming over from the UK are Margaret Busby, OBE, publisher, co-founder and former editorial director of the publishing house Allison and Busby. Patrick French, author of India: A Portrait and The World Is What It Is, an authorised biography of V.S. Naipaul, will also be there, as well as Jeremy Poynting, publisher and founder of Peepal Tree Press.

Among the key highlights will the announcement of the winner of the 2001 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the first major regional award recognising Caribbean writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Ten writers representing six different countries are in the running for the prize. Three books of poetry, four of fiction, and three of non-fiction were entered for the award. The writers range from Nobel laureates to debut authors, including Derek Walcott and VS Naipaul, Kamau Brathwaite and Edwidge Danticat.

There’ll also be a special tribute to the late Martiniquan poet, novelist and essayist Édouard Glissant.

Peepal Tree Press publisher, Jeremy Poynting

Patrons of the event will also join in celebrating the 25th anniversary of the UK-based Peepal Tree Press, the leading publisher of Caribbean fiction and poetry. Publisher and founder, Jeremy Poynting will be spotlighted and there’ll be a launch of new Peepal Tree titles and readings by Peepal Tree authors.

A Friday night ‘poetry crawl’ is planned for Woodbrook in downtown Port-of-Spain featuring open mic and performance poetry sessions at some of the city’s most popular nightspots. Moreover, there’ll be daily open mic sessions combined with spicy rhythms in the National Library’s Abercromby Street arcade, showcasing T&T’s vibrant performance poetry scene.

Along with a planned series of book launches and signings, there’ll be film screenings, loads of music, a wide variety of workshops, including sessions on the mechanics of writing, discussions with authors of recent non-fiction books and editors of key cultural journals, plus rap sessions on calypso and rapso lyrics and the traditional ‘Midnight Robber’ character of Trinidad Carnival.

Additionally, there’ll be panel discussions on topics ranging from current affairs to questions of what constitutes Caribbean literature, along with debates on digital technology and social media and their effects on literature and the book trade.

The region’s talented, emerging writers will also get their day in the sun. A series of readings dubbed ‘the Bocas lit Fest New Talent Showcase’ is being organized specially for them. According to the event’s organizing team, every year three unpublished “exceptionally talented writers’ will be selected and given the opportunity to share their work and engage with a larger audience. This year’s featured writers are Trinidadians Barbara Jenkins (fiction and memoir) and Alake Pilgrim (fiction) and St Lucian Vladimir Lucien (poetry).

The kids will also be getting in on the action. Throughout April the Bocas Lit Fest will host a series of children’s storytelling events across Trinidad & Tobago. Well-known storytellers will entertain the youngsters and they’ll also get the opportunity to share their own stories.

The main sponsors of the Bocas Lit Fest are the National Gas Company, One Caribbean Media, KFC and the Republic Bank as part of its Power to Make a Difference programme. The children’s event is also being sponsored by Republic Bank and KFC.

For a full list of authors and featured participants, see

For more details about discussion panels and workshops, visit


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