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New partnership launched at 2012 BOCAS Lit Fest

Posted on 29/03/2012
By Martin Petts

The Commonwealth Foundation, British Council and NGC Bocas Lit Fest announced a new partnership that will work towards enhancing the Caribbean literary scene and help kick-start an infrastructure to support writers, writing, and publishing.

Caribbean Literature Action Group (CALAG) was launched in Port of Spain at a one-day brainstorm workshop on Wednesday 25 April, on the eve of the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

The Caribbean has produced some of the world’s greatest contemporary writers, including three Nobel Prize laureates. Its literature is one of the region’s most celebrated cultural products. But Caribbean writers continue to migrate to North America and Europe in order to obtain financial support for their work and to achieve the highest level of international recognition. Literary publishing within the region remains in an embryonic state, and talented writers who choose to stay “at home” often find it difficult to access international publishers, or find opportunities for local publication and promotion.

In light of these common interests, the British Council and Commonwealth Writers have now developed a plan to work in partnership with the NGC Bocas Lit Fest and other literary professionals in the region. The first stage is to assemble a small, results-oriented action group of professionals from all areas of the Caribbean literary sector: writers, publishers, editors, teachers, booksellers, and organisers of festivals and writing programmes. 

Facilitators for the action group include Nicholas Laughlin (editor, Caribbean Review of Books), Linda Leith (founder of Blue Metropolis Bleu in Quebec), and Susie Nicklin (Director of Literature, British Council); and UK delegates include Ellah Allfrey (Deputy Editor Granta), Kei Miller (writer, editor and lecturer), and Jeremy Poynting (Peepal Tree Press).

“The British Council is privileged to have been invited to join such a distinguished group to address issues of concern, not just to the Caribbean but to writers across the Americas,” said Susie Nicklin, Director Literature, British Council. “With the Council’s global remit I hope that my experience and expertise will be helpful, but I expect to learn far more than I can teach from such vibrant and accomplished people.”  

“Commonwealth Writers is excited to be part of this timely action group to generate practical ideas to help shape a dynamic publishing infrastructure across the Caribbean,” said Lucy Hannah, Programme Manager, Culture, at the Commonwealth Foundation. “We hope that the initiatives which emerge from CALAG will in the longer term be transferable to other regions where opportunities for writers are scarce.” 

“The NGC Bocas Lit Fest was established to promote Caribbean writers and writing,” added Marina Salandy-Brown, Festival Director and Founder, NGC Bocas Lit Fest.  “Joining forces with the British Council and Commonwealth Writers, two entities dedicated to advancing literature in many other regions of the world, presents a real opportunity to help push forward development in the region’s publishing sector.  We are delighted to be able to work with fellow Caribbean people who share the same ambition.”