For the last two years the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies in Montserrat has mounted an absolutely outstanding Literary Festival, named the Alliouagana Festival of the Word. Now the third Festival is in an advanced state of planning for November, and promises to be just as great, with the theme 'Words and Music: Bonds and Bridges'.
Following the pattern of the last two years there will be a pre-festival event on the Thursday evening (November 10) featuring a symposium on the theme 'Creative and Cultural Industries: Implications for Developing Economies', with a feature address by Dr Keith Nurse of the Cave Hill Campus, followed by an exhibition and entertainment. This will be the second in the 'Arrow' Memorial Lecture series.
The Festival proper starts on the Friday evening (November 11) with a reception and grand opening, followed by the launch of two books, 'Poems from Behind God's Back' by distinguished local poet and historian Professor Sir Howard Fergus, and 'The Ill Concepts of the Caribbean Woman' by new Montserratian author Jo-Annah Richards. The winners of the annual Creative Writing competition will also be announced and presentations made. The later evening will feature music by successful soca musician 'Scrappy' Johnson.
On the Saturday and Sunday the Festival will run for most of the day as well as featuring dramatic performances in the evening. There will be readings and book signings by visiting authors as well as workshops and a Speakers' Corner and Open Mike session. As usual there will be a book stall selling local and Caribbean books, and possibly other interesting stalls. A new feature will be the 'Book Lovers Parade', where adults and children will be encouraged to wear costumes depicting some of their favourite story book characters.
Several distinguished authors will be featured at the Festival. One of these is novelist Colin Channer, who founded the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica. Another is Predencia Dixon, who was born in Jamaica but has done lots of work with disturbed children in the UK, and has written for children, parents, child care workers, and youth justice workers. Besides reading from her work she will conduct a parenting workshop entitled 'Can you fix my child?' - a very relevant topic.
Our own David Edgecombe will be putting on a play by Jamaican playwright, the late Trevor Rhone, 'Old Story Time'. I would highly recommend this play, which was performed many years ago by Yvonne Weekes' Rainbow Theatre Company in Plymouth, starring Joe West and others.
Another visiting author will be David Elliott who writes for children and young people. Besides reading at the Festival, he will be visiting the schools to have sessions with the children, where he is sure to be appreciated. Other authors include Japanese Kyoko Mori, who writes novels and non-fiction books. One of her themes, 'a sense of home when you don't live in the place of your birth' sounds especially appealing and relevant, as this applies to so many Caribbean people, both in Montserrat and throughout the Caribbean and the world (including myself!)
I do hope this article has given people a sense of what the Alliouagana Festival is all about, and will encourage people both here and overseas to come and experience it first-hand. Judging from the previous ones it's an experience not to be missed, and I try not to miss a single session. Too many people still feel that 'literature is not for me!' but there's something for everyone, and where else are you going to get a chance to meet and experience so many authors from all over the Caribbean and the World? And English teachers, do please find a way to bring your students to some of the sessions, which really bring literature alive.
It's also an excellent promotion for Montserrat, and I must congratulate UWI Resident Tutor Gracelyn Cassell for her hard work and dedication, and her sheer determination to keep the Festival going. You can check it out on their excellent website http://litfest.ms/ See you there!