BLF Poster 2016 03

Made my first trip to the every-other-yearly BIM Lit Fest and Book Fair in Barbados; taking place in Bridgetown – a city that still has the kind of unique architectural character I’d like to see more Caribbean countries, including my own, maintain. I got to see some of that character during a unique literary bus tour on the Saturday of the festival – while the children’s part of the book fair which kicked off with a Carnival complete with dancing, drumming, Anansi, and a stilt walker carried on in Independence Square. The literary bus tour around 350-year old World Heritage site Bridgetown city was a mix of historical stops such as the residences of literary luminaries Kamau Braithwaite and Frank Collymore and literary readings along the paths that inspired the literature being read. Really interesting; what stops would such a tour include in Antigua do you think – is Jamaica Kincaid’s childhood residence preserved? The bus tour and children’s fair was only a small part of a busy few days – that also included unplanned diversions like a morning stroll along the Richard Haynes Boardwalk. There were readings and more readings (or as they called them BIMrock Variations), a master class (led by Olive Senior), panels (including the likes of  Selma James, widow of CLR James and an activist in her own right), and workshops (I co-facilitated one on Memory and Fiction with Bernice McFadden, a renowned American writer with Bajan roots) and Jamaicans poet laureate Mervyn Morris and poet extraordinare Tanya Shirley, and more including the welcome reception at Sandals and the opening event at the PM’s official residence where celebrated and award winning Bajan author Paule Marshall’s son accepted a lifetime achievement award on her behalf. That’s just the tip of an ice berg of author and author events that included Karen Lord, A-dZiko Simba Gegele, Eintou Springer, Celeste St. Hill, Russell Watson, Esther Phillips, Robert Sandiford, Lynn Joseph, Hazel Simmons-McDonald, Heather Barker, Shivanee Ramlochan, Katherine Tafari, Adrian Greene, Christine Barrow, and event team members like Racquel Griffith, Theo Williams, and Linda Deane.


I first read Paule Marshall in university – the book Praisesong for the Widow. In the years since, I’ve read Daughters and Browngirl Brownstones. I was looking forward to meet Marshall but she didn’t make it. Her son accepted the award from the Barbados PM on her behalf.

mervyn me

Mervyn Morris is the Poet Laureate of Jamaica. Back in the early to mid 90s, he was mentor to me during my time at the University of the West Indies, also instructor in my first fiction writing class. He recommended me for the University of Miami’s Caribbean Fiction Writers Summer Institute, facilitated by Olive Senior who told me on this trip to BIM that he told her then that I was going to be a writer. I appreciate the faith and I’m happy every time I get to run in to him. Here we are at the Prime Minister’s official residence in Barbados at the BIM Lit Fest and Book Fair.

Olive selfie

Selfie at Sandals during BIM Lit Fest with Olive Senior – recent winner of the Bocas prize for literature, past Commonwealth Book Prize winner, and former mentor.


Ms. Senior added a note when she shared it on her social media.


Writers in Barbados for the 2016 BIM Lit Fest. The highlight of the night for me was catching up with Olive Senior, standing in front of me, that’s me in the back (my mom’s already chastised me for always seeking the back during a photo call). This was the first evening’s reception at Sandals where everything was lovely and everyone was new. I would get to know some of these people better over the next few days, beginning this night with talk of lemonade (hey, Bernice) and other historical, political, topical things.


Bernice McFadden

I love this photo. Me with two amazing writers. African American writer Bernice McFadden, centre. Currently reading her book Sugar and after hearing her reading on the final night of the BIM Festival at the Waterfront Café already eager to read more. Far right, Jamaican A-dZiko Simba Gegele with whom I feel forever bonded by our experience of being the first Burt Award finalists for the Caribbean in 2014 (she won!). Was good to catch up with her again (real talk). And if you haven’t read her book All Over Again yet, what are you waiting for?



Each guest writer was required/requested to gift the PM with a copy of their book/s. This is A-dZiko Gegele of Jamaica giving All Over Again. I gave Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings.



All guest writers (back row Cecil Foster, Bernice McFadden, Mervyn Morris; middle, Mrs. Foster and Esther Phillips; front Olive Senior, A-dZiko Gegele, Selma James, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Tanya Shirley, and Evan Marshall (son of lifetime achievement awardee Paule Marshall). We were melting (Barbados hot no wah!) but it doesn’t show …right?


with poster

It’s not every day you get to take a picture with a poster of yourself. Couldn’t resist. Wish I could have brought this home. #gyalfromOttosAntigua


Met Shakirah (Shakirah) on my trip to BIM – actually that’s Shakirah Bourne, playwright, short story writer, and screenwriter/filmmaker extraordinaire. We’ve been facebook friends for a minute; great to finally meet her and to finally get my hands on a copy of her book In Time of Need. Look forward to reading it. P.S. I’ve written about Shakirah’s writing before: check my series, ‘The Short of It’, on this site.


feedback BIM workshop

Participant review re my two-hour workshop bloc with Bernice McFadden – we took different approaches to our exploration of memory and fiction but it all came together.


No pictures as yet from my reading or the workshop. Will share if and when I get. NO more words; I promised this was a picture post. Well, just two more: THANK YOU.

To Appearances Page.

9 thoughts on “BIM LIT FEST: IN PICTURES

  1. Pingback: Literary Festivals of the Caribbean | Wadadli Pen

  2. Pingback: Reading Room and Gallery 19 | Wadadli Pen

  3. Joanne, I REALLY enjoy reading these posts. Seeing the many authors and poets, sharing your mentors, your report on the features of the festival all inspire and ignite/reawaken a commitment to LEARN the art form (as opposed to being an inspiration writer).

    There’s always a little thought tickling something in them too… is Antigua & Barbuda respectful of literary arts enough to be able to have a lit bus tour as the one you mentioned (Is Kincaid’s childhood home still standing? What other sites could there be? No doubt Joanne Hillhouse ‘s childhood home deserves to be there too but do we recognise our literary greats or care enough to find the resources? One site I’d love to see for sure is that dungeon used to punish our enslaved ancestors spoken of in Oh Gad!).

    Again, thanks for sharing, inspiring, turning lights on thoughts that should be considered.

  4. Pingback: BIM Lit Fest: A Teaser | Wadadli Pen

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