Alliouagana Festival of the Word


In keeping with the year-long marking of the 20th anniversary of the start of recent volcanic activity on Montserrat, our theme this year for the 7th Alliouagana Festival of the Word (AFW) is Volcanic Dust: Journeys and Connections.

We are proud that Baroness Floella Benjamin has consented to be patron of this year’s festival and that she, accompanied by her husband, will be telling us about their journeys. Despite her youthful appearance, Baroness Benjamin seems to have lived at least ten lives and what useful and interesting lives they have been! Those who may remember her first visit to the island in 2006 and her interview with Dr Clarice Barnes Under the Tamarind Tree will doubtless want to know what she has been doing in the intervening years. All others, including children who have been the focus of so much of her work, be prepared to be entertained, informed and inspired by her.

The 3rd Distinguished Lecture in the Alphonsus ‘Arrow’ Cassell Memorial Lecture Series will be given by Dr Aldrin E. Sweeney who is no stranger to Montserrat. He serves on the Board of Governors of the Montserrat Community College and both his parents were born here. His intriguing title for the Thursday evening kick off to the festival is Thinking Beyond the Ash: Using our Volcanic Resources.

AFW also welcomes a stellar line-up of writers both local and visiting who will share aspects of their work especially relevant to our theme. They include Tony Eprile, South African born and raised now living and teaching creative writing in the US; Calypsonian writer, performer, coach and Extempo champion, Llewellyn MacIntosh aka Short Pants from Trinidad; Jeremy Poynting, publisher with Peepal Tree Press, UK; Keith Taylor, writer, photographer and director for television and other media from the UK; author and journalist Andrew Skerritt who was raised on Montserrat and now lives in Florida; and from Montserrat, researcher, educator and cultural activist, Dr Clarice Barnes, poet and musician, Ann Marie Dewar, and Prof Sir Howard Fergus, historian, poet, educator.

A number of events have become regular fixtures on the AFW calendar. These include book launches, sales, and signings, the MVO creative writing competition award ceremony and the Book Lovers’ Parade. The last is coordinated this year by Ms Montserrat/Miss Jaycees, Sharissa Ryan, with assistance continuing from our partners the Coral Cay Team.

We are delighted that internationally recognised author, playwright and poet, Edgar Nkosi White, will be launching his new work Deported to Paradise: Essays and Memories, published by Peepal Tree Press. David Lea, known for the videos which document Montserrat’s experiences with an active Volcano will also be launching his book Through My Lens as part of the Opening Ceremony on Friday 13 November. Congratulations to both gentlemen!

For those who like their literary experiences through film, there will be several opportunities to see movies related to our theme, including a screening of the award-winning BBC version of Baroness Benjamin’s book Coming to England. And a first for AFW this year is an off-site Showcase event –WORD UP- at The Lyme in Brades on Saturday evening that will be a feast for lovers of the spoken word – including readings, lyrics, poetry and freestyle performances. We welcome the young and dymamic coordinator of this event, Coretta Ryan, to the AFW Steering Committee.

Previous attendees at AFW events have often commented on the exceptional quality of presentations and how appealing they were to a wide range of ages and educational backgrounds. This year will be no exception so we look forward to seeing you and your family members at as many of these events as you can make.

Sincere thanks to our major sponsors for 2015, the Office of the Premier, the Montserrat Arts Council and LIME and to all donors who have sustained the Festival into its 7th year! And thanks to all of the authors who have joined us over the years and to Best of Books in Antigua for supplying the books we need in the absence of a dedicated bookshop! We appreciate your contribution to the Alliouagana Festival of the Word.