The event was dubbed Sips & Verses; it was a fund raiser for the Government House Restoration Project on the evening of Saturday 27th June. It would feature local authors and poets.
A little background…
According to the Governor General’s Message in the event booklet, read in his absence by Governor General’s Deputy Sir Clare Roberts, “the Government House Restoration Committee was formed in October 2014 in response to the urgent need to restore the entire Government House property.” He announced that US$8 million is the target.
It begins with this… small, very small events in this stately place – and wandering, as I tend to do, through the dining room and other spaces, you get a real sense of its former grandeur, not as somewhere specifically lived in and homey but as a historical showpiece, which it aspires to be again. I have warring impulses when it comes to such places – an appreciation for history, yes; an awareness that such spaces do not comfortably accommodate the working class people who built this country (my people), also yes. And yet the poetry and prose we come here to share tonight, could prompt sober reflection on who we are, who we want to be, at this intersection of governance (which this house symbolizes), then and now.
Or it could just be an entertaining evening. Either way.
Sips & Verses is the second arts fundraiser in this space that I’m aware of – the first was an art auction, the pieces from which can still be seen hanging on the walls, prompting me to ask if the space is opened for public viewing of said pieces on a day. Speaking of the Public, when I shared the after-post re Sips and Verses on social media several people commented that they would have come out to support if they’d only known about it. So, there’s that. I did find out that while there’s no online presence as yet for the restoration fund that contributions can be made to an account at Antigua Commercial Bank. So, there’s that as well.
As I write this I haven’t sourced any pictures as yet, online or otherwise, except for those taken and posted to facebook by one of the other participants (my favourite of the night as it happens, with her varie-flected accent, breezy boldness and the deep-deep storytelling anchoring her love poetry, Kimolisa Mings). Hope she doesn’t mind me borrowing.
What else can I tell you of the night the readings were by turns sobering-slash-chilling (Claudia Elizabeth Ruth Francis reading from her international thriller Missing), wryly amusing (Dorbrene O’Marde, a reflection on Carnivals past wrapped in a critique of Carnivals present wrapped in a story styled like a letter between two friends circa early 80s that could easily be rewritten today), sassy-meet-saucy (a toss up between Michelle Toussaint’s last poem – sorry, Michelle, I don’t remember the name but it’s the one inspired by an Edison Liburd painting, the only one I got to hear after being summoned to move my car…and is not my fault, is there the police tell me to park, hm – and Joy Lawrence’s Mr. Fashion). It was a pleasure to hear Wadadli Pen alum Margaret Irish read one of her winning pieces, the Skipping Rope, and in conversation with her, to hear of her plans for publication of a children’s book and other things in the near future – go, Margaret. It’s a complicated time for me in my head and heart with so many things that are going on my country and in my world, but here was the simple pleasure of realizing something I continue to pour my heart and soul into is bearing fruit.
So, in the end, I don’t know if the organizers hit their target – I hope we helped them inch along toward the eight million, likkle likkle, as we say, full basket; certainly a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book is going to the cause (a couple of copies of The Boy from Willow Bend and Musical Youth and a single copy of Oh Gad! have new readers) – plus there was the price of admission (no, no, no, it wasn’t just who soever will may come). And whatever else, it was nice to spend an evening soaking up the words of writers I enjoy, great to see words embraced and appreciated in this space (our version of the White House) where there is always a sense of occasion (if only for the police in their formal outfits, the Governor General’s Deputy and his spouse greeting folks in the receiving line, and the space which screams elegance) even if it is in need of restoration.
For a much more magical Cinderella reading of the night’s events be sure to check out Michelle’s blog. Hey, Michelle, you can keep my glass slippers…shoes were not meant to be torture devices.