Adventures of a Youth Blogger (2): Dr. Keith Rowley

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On the 27th April, 2017 I attended a One on One discussion with the Honourable Dr. Keith Rowley on his memoir From Mason Hall to Whitehall. He was interviewed by the Bocas Deputy Festival director Mr. Funso Aiyejina who clearly stated that it was an opportunity to see Mr. Rowley in a personal rather than a political light. Surprisingly, it was not the usual story of a beam of inspiration and burning desire to put pen to paper which led Mr. Rowley to write his book. It came about as a positive response to an unfortunate circumstance.

The publicity that came along with his involvement in the General Elections of 2015 meant that he was interviewed regularly. On one occasion, he was subsequently described as having a middle class upbringing which he stated was not true. It dawned on him that many people, including his family, did not know enough about him outside of the political arena. It was then that he decided to write From Mason Hall to Whitehall to fill those gaps

He read from the chapter entitled ‘My Common Entrance Near Miss’ where we were able to gain insight into his difficulty in reaching to a point of eventually being able to do the Common Entrance examination.  He described this great stroke of luck as ‘a matter of fate’.

One particularly comical incident which he shared was typical for young, adventurous children with some extra time on their hands. After getting into trouble, Mr. Rowley and his friends slipped cardboard into their shirts to brace the impending share of licks. Much to their misfortune, an onlooker revealed the secret which led to them having to remove the cardboard and receive their punishment in full. The audience exploded with the laughter of those who would have undoubtedly had similar experiences.

The second reading came from the chapter entitled ‘My First Visit to Trinidad’. He was 8 years old the first time he visited and although Tobago was just next door, he described the great culture shock that he experienced. He lived in Laventille with his mother and fought through difficulties such as the lack of pipe borne water. Shortly after, he responded to a question from the audience about inspiring others through his writing and he responded by saying, “You shouldn’t put a lid on how high you want to climb”. It was evident then that this could have been his mantra moving through life and partly the reason why he was able to rise above the many obstacles he encountered.

Lastly, someone asked Dr. Rowley about finding time to write given his busy schedule. He stated that his best time for writing was between midnight and daybreak and he encouraged us all to find a quiet time during which to write. ‘There’s something inspirational about the quiet of the night.” he stated.

The time proved too short to delve into as much detail as we would have liked, nonetheless, everyone in the audience was able to witness and share in the fondness with which Mr. Rowley recalled his childhood and his journey through life. We were also able to appreciate his decision to expose himself to the vulnerability that naturally accompanies one’s decision to write about the most intimate details of their life.

Go grab a copy and get to reading!

Adventures of a Bocas Youth Blogger (1)

This year I was fortunate to be part of the inaugural group of Youth Bloggers for the NGC Bocas Lit Festival. Although there were a number of events leading up to the actual festival, the first event I attended was the opening reception which took place on the 26th April at the 101 Art Gallery, Newtown.

Just before arriving at the Art Gallery, I had collected my package at the National Library and so I held my bag firmly as I walked in nervously. I looked around and noticed that everyone hurled familiar names across the room, this was then followed by an exchange of hugs and greetings. I felt like the lost child at the grocery store and so I sent out a message to the group of Youth Bloggers and Giselle informed me that she was on her way.

Meanwhile, I had perfected my ‘save me from the torture of my solitude’ face and I think that must have encouraged Nicole Dennis-Benn to engage me in light conversation. I learnt of her interest in writing as well as her highly acclaimed book, Here Comes The Sun. It was a privilege to meet this esteemed writer and walk away with a sense of encouragement fostered by one who understood the musings of a young, amateur writer.

Giselle arrived shortly after. While we spoke, I decided to put on my Youth Blogger badge and I gained greater confidence along with the realisation that I was given the opportunity to truly contribute to the event and to interact with many writers and professionals in the field.

The highlight of the evening was the announcement of the winners of the CODE’s Burt Award. A short but informative opening address was delivered by Marina Salandy-Brown , founder and Festival Director of the Bocas festival, followed by the results. In third place was Trinidadian writer Lisa Allen-Agostini for her unpublished novel Waiting for the Bus, in second place was also a Trinidadian by the name of Kevin Jared Hosein for his unpublished novel The Beast of Kukuyo and first place was awarded to a Puerto Rican, American based writer, Viviana Prado-Núñez for her self-published novel, The Art of White Roses.

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Picture with Viviana Prado-Núñez, winner of the CODE’s Burt Award 2017.

A rush of excitement and heartfelt congratulations flowed through the room after the announcement of the winners.  A small group of Youth Bloggers stayed and socialised afterwards. We spoke of our interest in the festival and the events we hoped to attend.

It’s quite nice to have someone share or comment on your blog post but it’s an even greater experience to meet and interact with individuals who share your interest and passion for writing. It’s unfortunate that areas such as the arts, culture and writing are often undermined by the general public. Nonetheless, amidst the pollution of unappreciated art forms and unfair criticism, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest was already proving to be a breath of fresh air.

Stay tuned for more post festival thoughts!

Check out the Bocas Lit Fest:

Website: Bocas Lit Fest

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Twitter: @bocaslitfest

 

 

 

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