Originally written for and published in Caribbean Beat magazine in 2007
Just in its second year, the Caribbean Literary Festival is set to return to Antigua this November.
The festival was launched by Montserrat-born sisters Joy Bramble, founder of the Baltimore Times publishing company, and Pam Arthurton, founder of Carib-World Travel. They wanted to make a contribution to the region of their birth by rebuilding Antigua’s national library, which had been destroyed by a 1972 earthquake.
“A country needs a library,” explains Bramble. “Books open a new world, books change lives. Poor children need access to books that don’t cost, and access to the Internet levels the playing field for the young people here.”
The sisters decided to establish a national library fund, which would provide special assistance for disabled readers and support for a library science degree scholarship.
The idea of hosting Antigua’s first international literary festival came about after they talked with Linda Duggins, co-founder of the Harlem Book Fair and director of multicultural publicity at the Hachette Book Group. They brought on board project manager Avonelle Pole, and found sponsorship from Borders, Carib-World Travel, Heart & Soulmagazine and The Writer’s Lair Books.
The event featured both world-renowned and emerging writers, including Antiguan-born Jamaica Kincaid and Marie-Elena John, Trinidadian-born Elizabeth Nunez, and Nalo Hopkinson, who has West Indian parentage.
For Bramble and her fellow organisers, one of the most important components of the festival is the educational one. So last year’s programme offered a variety of workshops on writing styles, media and techniques, and practical advice from panels and seminars on how to get an agent, get published, and market one’s writing. This year’s festival promises a similar schedule of activities.
And what of the feedback for this fledgling festival? “Extraordinary,” said Jamaica Kincaid. “I hope it’s something that we have for years and years.” Elizabeth Nunez echoed the sentiment: “I can say without hesitation that this festival was one of the best I’ve ever attended. If you missed it, you missed a major event.”
The second annual Caribbean Literary Festival is scheduled for November 2–4.
For more information, visit the festival’s website at www.caribbeanliteraryfestival.com or contact the organisers by phone at +410-366-3900, ext 3013.