2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest asks “What’s your story?”

“What’s your story?” is the theme and tagline of the 2023 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, Trinidad and Tobago’s annual festival of books and writers. Running from Friday 28 to Sunday 30 April, the largest annual literary event in the Anglophone Caribbean — now in its 13th year — returns with a fully in-person programme, after three years of running virtual, online festivals in response to COVID-19.

Based at the National Library in downtown Port of Spain, with satellite venues around the city, the 2023 festival includes over 70 events and roughly 100 authors, speakers, and performers — all dedicated to exploring “the power of stories,” according to festival and programme director Nicholas Laughlin. 

Posed as a question, the festival theme “What’s your story?” “invites a response and opens a conversation,” said Laughlin. “We hope it also makes clear we don’t think of the festival as a place merely for passive entertainment. What we try to create each year at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest is a forum for exchange and debate, a place to learn and be inspired, a place to imagine and create.”

Programme highlights include appearances by Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo, newly named T.S. Eliot Prize winner Anthony Joseph, Sharma Taylor from Jamaica (winner of the 2019 Johnson and Amoy Achong Caribbean Writers Prize) and the popular Jamaica-born poet and musician Linton Kwesi Johnson, alongside buzzworthy younger Trinidad and Tobago writers like Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, author of When We Were Birds, Kevin Jared Hosein, author of the newly published and already acclaimed Hungry Ghosts, Breanne Mc Ivor, whose debut novel The God of Good Looks will have a pre-launch outing at the festival, and Elizabeth “Lady” Montano, manager and biographer of her multiple award-winning son Machel Montano, linking larger-than-life soca stardom to the NGC Bocas Lit Fest.

A special focus on the genre of life writing will bring together authors of recent memoirs, biographies, and family histories, and the return of the festival’s New Talent Showcase will aim the spotlight at a cohort of up-and-coming T&T writers.

Also in the festival mix: a celebration of the centenary of the beloved T&T writer Sam Selvon, the launch of a long-awaited biography of literary icon Harold Sonny Ladoo (author of No Pain Like This Body), and tributes in music and film to the recently deceased literary scholar Professor Gordon Rohlehr and calypsonian Black Stalin.

Two hard-hitting “Big Idea” discussion panels will debate the crucial question of the Caribbean’s role in the climate crisis, and the issue of inclusion and accessibility for those with physical and mental differences and disabilities.

Other familiar NGC Bocas Lit Fest fixtures will return: an Extempo Debate, showcasing the popular artform, an Ole Mas competition, free film screenings, dramatic performances, and the eagerly anticipated Stand & Deliver open mic series.

The 2023 winner of the most coveted award for Caribbean writing, the OCM Bocas Prize, will be announced on Saturday 29 April, and the First Citizens National Poetry Slam finals return to their traditional place as the festival’s grand finale.

Alongside the adult festival runs an entire programme of events for youngsters, the NGC Children’s Bocas Lit Fest. The popular Children’s Storytelling Caravan returns as an in-person programme this year, with events across T&T throughout the month of April.

NGC Bocas Lit Fest Children’s Caravan | Photo Courtesy: Bocas Lit Fest

The festival schedule and programme are available online at http://www.bocaslitfest.com, with frequent news of Bocas Lit Fest events and projects posted on social media via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @bocaslitfest.

The National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago is title sponsor of the NGC Bocas Lit Fest; OCM, First Citizens, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, NLCB, and the British Council are main sponsors; Massy Foundation and UWI are sponsors.

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