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National literary festival has longer run, more features

Tuesday, March 22, 2016
Chilean ambassador Fernando Schmidt speaks about CineLit at the launch of the 2016 Bocas Lit Fest at Nalis. Looking on are festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown and FCB deputy chief executive officer Jason Julien.

In these tough economic times, the annual Bocas Lit Fest has managed to retain all of its major sponsors. Those sponsors—NGC, OCM, First Citizens and the Ministry of Planning—pledged their continuing support for the national literary festival at last Wednesday’s launch which took place at the National Library (Nalis) in Port-of-Spain. Founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown and her team have also been able to forge closer ties with the Latin American countries and for the first time, there will be CineLit, a programme of films based on Latin American books. 

Chilean ambassador Fernando Schmidt, was also present at the launch and spoke of how elated he was to have such films included in the literary festival. He said all the Latin American countries with embassies in T&T have contributed films to the event. 

“Dialogue between languages is so important. We hope that through these films, we will make a step forward in forging closer ties between the Latin American countries and the Caribbean,” said Schmidt. 

Salandy-Brown explained that with the addition of CineLit, this year’s festival will be extended from five to nine days. CineLit starts on April 23 and runs for the duration of the festival. The traditional elements of the festival—readings, workshops, salons as well as cultural events—begin on April 27 and culminates on May 1. 

The festival which takes place at Nalis, also pays homage to the 400th anniversaries of the deaths of renowned English and Spanish writers Miguel de Cervantes and William Shakespeare. There will be a special Shakespearean open mic where people can read their own sonnets inspired by Shakespearean stories or themes, and there will be a prize for the winner. 

She explained the festival had been growing since it began in 2011 and as a result more elements are being added. There are nearly 100 events occurring within the festival. There will be a number of panel discussions as well as workshops about specialist or niche writing including poetry, fiction, crime and short stories. 

“The festival programme has six cornerstones—authors’ readings and conversations; literary and non-literary panel discussions; film screenings; prizes; and performances. But included too are booksellers and book signings and we also try to keep the oral tradition alive, which is what our name Bocas derived from,” said Salandy-Brown. 

The traditional aspects of Bocas Lit Fest will kick off with readings from an array of new books by local authors. One such author is former T&T Guardian Editor-in-Chief, Judy Raymond who will be introducing her third book. 

In the coming weeks, the shortlists for the 2016 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean literature and CODE’s Burt Award for Caribbean literature, recognising Caribbean writers of young adult literature will be released and the winners will be announced at the festival. The Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters, an annual lifetime achievement award recognising service to Caribbean literature by editors, publishers, critics and broadcasters, will be bestowed on Jeremy Poynting, founder of Peepal Tree Press. 

An increasingly popular element of Bocas is the First Citizens National Poetry Slam. It is the final event of the festival calendar and will feature the best spoken word performers in the country. This year’s final takes place at Globe Cinema, Park Street, Port-of-Spain. 

The NGC Bocas Children’s Lit Fest is a caravan which starts on April 1, in Tobago and goes to various parts of the country. It will be based at the Children’s Library at Nalis for the festival. 

There will also be satellite evening events at venues around the city, including a special day of events for adults and children on April 27 at the Queen’s Park Oval as it celebrates the 125th anniversary of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club. 

On April 28, there will be a tribute to calypsonian the Mighty Sparrow on the 60th anniversary of his celebrate classic Jean and Dinah. 

• For information about all other events happening at the Bocas Lit Fest, visit the website at


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