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 thelie of White supremacy and Black inferiority (via Zoom).

  • 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.

The official opening of the festival on Friday evening will introduce the invited guests and will see the launch of three new books by Christene Brown, Sir Howard Fergus and Olive Senior.

Media and interactive sessions taking place at the MVO on Sunday afternoon include:

  • a panel discussion chaired by Edwin Martin to consider the lives and stellar contributions of three of Montserrat’s recently departed, Prof George Irish, the Hon Annie Dyer-Howe and the Hon D.R.V. Frank Edwards
  • video viewings followed by 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 and an important speech by former Africa Union Ambassador Dr Arikana Chihombori-Quao on The History of Africa.
  • 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 musical Steel,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 a Trini 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.

Other events that will be of particular interest to young people and their parents include

  • Primary School Book Parade followed by talks by authors on Thursday morning
  • Michael Hingston talking to the lower forms of MSS about his research on Redonda and its interesting monarchy
  • MVO Creative Writing Competition Prize-Giving event on Saturday afternoon followed by
  • HarperCollins Spelling and Reading Competitions coordinated by Barbara Arrindell, co-owner of the bookshop, Best of Books, Antigua and Thandie Williams
  • the launch of a new book – Boonoonoonous Hair by Olive Senior.

And for everyone, a chance to listen to talented young performers during Word Up – A Storytelling Slam organized by the Montserrat Community College students and faculty and held on their campus. They will be joined by some of our visiting authors who will add their talents and voices.

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 on Arrow’s contribution to the creative and cultural arts on Montserrat and Dr. Clarice Barnes will develop the theme of this year’s festival with her remarks on The Chance Pond Mermaid and Diamond Snake Meme: Contending Issues in Gathering our Volcano Stories. This will also be an evening of entertainment by local musicians and dancers and will feature the opening on Montserrat of a travelling Exhibition entitled Mountain A Glow curated by an unusual pairing of literary critics and volcanologists.

As always, our grateful thanks go to our many sponsors and partners including the Office of the Premier, Government of Montserrat through the Montserrat Arts Council, the Ministry of Education, the Montserrat Community College, the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, HarperCollins Publisher, The Montserrat Foundation, Best of Books, local businesses and individual friends of the festival both on island and overseas. 

A detailed schedule of events giving times and locations is on our website.   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 literary festival.