The Caribbean's leading literature festival at the British Library, with Celeste Mohammed, Canisia Lubrin, Shivanee Ramlochan and more.
This event will take place at the British Library. It will be simultaneously live streamed on the British Library platform. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person (physical), or to watch on our platform (online) either live or within 48 hours on catch up. Viewing links will be sent out shortly before the event.
The online version of this event will be live captioned.
Join Trinidad and Tobago’s Bocas Lit Fest for a showcase of the best of contemporary Caribbean and diaspora writing, with provocative readings and conversations about history, identity, art and ideas.
Session 1 - Ways In The World
11.00 – 12.00
Among the legacies of Britain’s imperial past are countless journeys across oceans and continents, shaping the lives of individuals, families, and societies across generations. Two new memoirs and a collection of autobiographical poems tell stories of displacement and homecoming, of being lost and found, in the aftermath of complicated history. Featuring Barbara Jenkins, whose book The Stranger Who Was Myself moves from growing up in pre-Independence Trinidad to coming of age in 1960s Wales; Ira Mathur, whose Love the Dark Days stretches from India to Trinidad, London to St. Lucia, through a web of family secrets and ambitions.
Session 2 - The Trouble With History
12.30 – 13.30
For Caribbean writers, there is no such thing as an idyllic past - not when the history of the islands is a story of invasion and colonisation, exploitation and oppression. In their new writing, ranging from the 19th to the mid-20th century, these writers excavate stories of the past that illuminate our present. With Cecil Browne, winner of the 2022 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Europe and Canada, with a tale set in post-emancipation St. Vincent; Ingrid Persaud, author of The Vagabond Rajah, about the notorious Trinidadian criminal and folk hero Boysie Singh; and Amanda Smyth, author of Fortune, a novel set at the dawn of the age of oil in Trinidad and Tobago.
Session 3 - An Island Is A World
14.00 – 15.00
Small places can be immensely complicated, and that’s certainly true of the 21st-century Caribbean. Our writers explore this complexity through a mosaic of characters and themes, a polyphony of voices and concerns. Featuring Celeste Mohammed, author of Pleasantview (winner of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize), a “novel in stories” capturing Trinidad in all its rich contradictions; Jacob Ross, whose collected stories, Tell No-one About This, offers a sweeping portrait of Grenada, with a special focus on the lives and predicaments of women; and Celia Sorhaindo, whose poetry collection Radical Normalisation explores the aftereffects of natural disaster — Hurricane Maria in Dominica — and how writing can create community.
Session 4 - Don’t Call It Magic
15.30 – 16.30
If elements of the marvellous recur in many Caribbean novels, it’s certainly not because we live fairytale lives. But sometimes the only way to present the intricacy of the Caribbean past and present is to admit myth and folklore, the supernatural and the speculative. With Ayanna Lloyd Banwo, author of the debut novel When We Were Birds, an exploration of love, family, and the afterlife; Karen Lord, author of Unravelling, which combines Caribbean archetypes with a serial killer story; and Pauline Melville, author of The Master of Chaos, a collection of modern-day fables about obsession, desire, loyalty, and guilt; in conversation with Monique Roffey.
Session 5 - Mothers, Fathers, Daughters, Sons
17.00 – 18.00
There’s no story more urgent, no conflict more primal, no love more fraught, than the family dynamic. Ambitions and betrayals play out in our bloodlines, and for many Caribbean writers, ancestry can be equally reassuring and discomfiting. Featuring Sophie Jai, author of Wild Fires, a story of the messy bounds and ruptures of family and community, shifting between the Caribbean and Canada; Anthony Joseph, author of the Forward Prize–shortlisted Sonnets for Albert, exploring the consequences of a mostly absent father; and Shivanee Ramlochan, author of Everyone Knows I Am a Haunting, whose poems delve deep into genealogy and self-making; in conversation with Claire Adam.
Session 6 - Beyond Every Boundary
18.30 – 20.00
For many writers of the Caribbean, home is not a straightforward concept. Not for a region of the world historically populated by enslaved and indentured labour wrenched from other continents, and not for a far-flung multi-ethnic diaspora, in an age when identity is increasingly contested, and populist politicians manipulate the idea of “belonging” to divide and rule. How do we define and understand ourselves, our communities, our solidarities in the collision of nation and imagination? With Canisia Lubrin, author of The Dyzgraphist (winner of the 2021 OCM Bocas Prize and the Griffin Prize for Poetry); and Tessa McWatt, author of Shame on Me: An Anatomy of Race and Belonging (winner of the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize for Non-Fiction).
Session 7 - Grand Finale
20.00 – 20.30
The BOCAS Festival closes in style with a showcase celebration bringing together extracts from Playboy of the West Indies, and Renaissance One's WE LIMING: poetry, music and spoken word to delight the senses.
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