Celeste Mohammed

Bocas Lit fest – Caribbean Writers tour Britain

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In times past, British writers would occasionally visit the Caribbean to share their wisdom with students and readers. A few, like James Bond creator Ian Fleming, wrote some of their work in the Caribbean. But today the boot is on the other foot (or the pen is in the other hand): Caribbean writers are coming to Britain on tour.

Since the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, based in Trinidad, was founded in 2011 it has grown to become the most prestigious festival of Caribbean literature. In celebration of its 10th anniversary (delayed by Covid), Bocas Lit Fest will embark on its first-ever foreign tour, visiting five British cities between 26 October and 3 November. It promises to be a major event for booklovers and a rare chance to meet and hear some of the Caribbean’s top contemporary writers.

First stop for the literary roadshow is the Central Library in Leicester on Wednesday 26 October. This year’s winner of the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, Celeste Mohammed, will join with fellow Trinidadian writer Amanda Smyth to discuss contemporary writing in T&T.

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Moving to Norwich the next day, Celeste will be joined by Canisia Lubrin, Barbara Jenkins, Karen Lord and Celia Sorhaindo – five authors from four countries whose work spans genres from novels to short stories, memoirs to poetry. We’re promised “a lively evening of stories, poetry, ideas, conversation and food”.

Then comes the highlight of the tour – an all-day celebration of Caribbean literature at the British Library, next to St Pancras station in London, on Saturday 29 October. Two dozen Caribbean and diaspora writers will present “provocative readings and conversations about history, identity, art and ideas” in six hour-long sessions from 11am to 8pm. From legacies of Britain’s imperial past, family secrets and the after-effects of Hurricane Maria to tales of Trinidad & Tobago, St Vincent, Grenada and Saint Lucia, the books and their authors will provide a feast for the mind to savour. The grand finale is billed as a celebration of poetry and music. You can attend the event in person or watch the livestream.

On Monday 31 October, it’s the turn of Leeds – specifically the Leeds Poetry Centre – to host 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Poetry winner Jason Allen-Paisant. He’ll be joined by Shivanee Ramlochan, Malaika Booker and Adam Lowe, who’ll be in conversation with Emily Zobel-Marshall. Emily has made a name for herself as a stimulating speaker at carnival conferences in Leeds, London and Oxford.

This literary Grand Tour of Britain concludes at the Belfast International Arts Festival in Northern Ireland, as Celeste Mohammed and Jacob Ross “explore the complexities of the contemporary Caribbean” at the intriguingly named No Alibis Bookstore.

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The events in London (British Library), Norwich and Belfast are ticketed, while those in Leicester and Leeds are free. For Bocas UK 2022 at the British Library, in-person tickets are £30, 60+ £26, student, 18-25 years, disabled, unemployed £15; online access is £10.

For more details, see: www.bocaslitfest.com/bocas-uk-tour-2022/; email: info@bocaslitfest.com; tel: +1 (868) 222 7099. For more information about the writers and talks at the British Library, go to: www.bl.uk/events/bocas-uk-2022-at-the-british-library; or email: boxoffice@bl.uk; tel: 01937 546546.

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