Under the Distinguished Patronage of the Premier of Montserrat, the Honourable Donaldson Romeo.



Alliouagana Festival of the Word


At last year’s festival, the theme of examining the challenges faced by people of colour and coming up with ideas for positive future action certainly struck a chord with presenters and audience alike. The sessions resulted in lively exchanges with The University of the West Indies’ motto – Let All Ideas Contend – well in evidence. Given the interest shown, the Steering Committee for this the 11th Alliouagana Festival of the Word decided to plan what is essentially a Part Two with the theme Continue the Conversation, Change the Narrative.Our invited guests, whether their primary focus is literature, history or psychology, all bring to their work a deep and personal understanding of race relations and its enduring effect on the Black psyche. The following are the confirmed featured authors:

  • Dr Emily Bernard, writer on African American Studies, will make the case for storytelling as an urgent and fundamental means of literally composing and reclaiming the self.
  • Dr Cheryl Tawede Grills, psychologist, will talk about her work in mobilizing people of African background to heal from and extinguish the lie of White supremacy and Black inferiority.
  • Olive Senior, poet, novelist, playwright, journalist, historian and one of Jamaica’s national treasures, will talk about the impetus behind her book Dying to Better Themselves, an account of the little known, and thus even less applauded, contributions of West Indians to the building of the Panama Canal.

Media and interactive sessions include:

  • A panel discussion to consider the lives and stellar contributions of three of Montserrat’s recently departed, Professor George Irish, the Honourable Annie Dyer-Howe and the Honourable D.R.V. Frank Edwards.
  • A video viewing followed by panel discussion of the brilliant rebuttal that Ta Nehesi Coates made to Senator Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell’s contention that the current generation should not be held responsible for past actions.
  • A rare opportunity to see the work of Nobel Poet Laureate, Sir Derek Walcott, on video. The festival has obtained permission to screen Walcott’s Steel: A Musical, the music for which was composed by Tony award winning Galt MacDermott, best known for Hair and Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The musical tells the story of the steel band and its internal and external struggles, and has been described as a tribute to the people of the West Indies, their hardships, triumphs and their sense of community. The production done by the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 2005 was recorded live by Robin Foster.  Other events that will be of particular interest to children and their parents include: 

  • Primary School Book Parade
  • HarperCollins Spelling and Reading Competitions coordinated by Barbara Arrindell, co-owner of the bookshop, Best of Books, Antigua and Sonja Smith, Librarian at the Montserrat Public Library.
  • The launch of new children’s books –Oliver Oriole by Garvey Scrappy Johnson and Boonoonoonous Hairby Olive Senior.

And for everyone, a chance to listen to talented young performers during Word Up – a Storytelling Slam organized by the faculty and students at the Montserrat Community College.As is traditional now at the festival, the Thursday evening before the official opening celebrates the great and late Alphonsus ‘Arrow’ Cassell. His brother Hero will talk onArrow’s contribution to the creative and cultural arts on Montserrat and Dr. Clarice Barnes will deliver the feature address entitled- The Chance’ Pond Mermaid and Diamond Snake Meme: Contending Issues in Gathering our Volcano Stories.  This will also be an evening of entertainment and the opening on Montserrat of a travelling Exhibition entitledDisaster Passed? It commemorates the eruption, the experiences and the very strong cultural responses both created. The Exhibition was curated by an unusual pairing of literary critics and volcanologists.As always, our grateful thanks go to our many sponsors including the Government of Montserrat through the Montserrat Arts Council, HarperCollins the Publisher, local businesses and individual friends of the festival both on island and overseas. A detailed schedule of events giving times and locations will be placed on our website as soon as final confirmations allow.  In the meantime we hope you agree that this is a programme packed with interesting content with plenty of opportunities for diverse voices to be heard. Language will be celebrated as the powerful tool it can be in our efforts to Change the Narrative.  Do plan on joining us from Nov 14-17, 2019 for the Alliouagana Festival of the Word.