A collaboration between a Trinidadian media company and a UK production company has given three local writers a unique opportunity for their work to be broadcast on BBC Radio in the UK.
Trini Good Media, a company founded by journalists Franka Philip and Ardene Sirjoo, is also bringing these dramas to Carifesta XVI on Festival Radio, the official online radio station for the regional arts festival.
The collaboration between Trini Good Media and Sparklab Productions from Manchester, began last year when the TGM co-founders were introduced to Sparklab's director Mel Harris by a mutual contact.
"After the 2018 Bocas Lit Fest, Ardene and I were chatting with UK-based Bocas Lit Fest board member Lucy Hannah about project ideas for Trini Good Media," Philip said. "And as Lucy and I are both ex-BBC producers, we thought of possible collaborations with the Corporation and she suggested I speak with Mel."
A few months later when TGM was contracted by Carifesta XIV to run Festival Radio, Philip got in touch with Harris to see whether "something special" could be done for the BBC that pays some homage to Carifesta.
The two brainstormed and Harris took some ideas to Matthew Dodd of BBC Radio 3 who eventually agreed to commission three 30-minute plays for the network. The BBC executive gave clear guidelines about what he felt would work well for his primary audience—the UK domestic market.
"Matthew wanted bold and original plays that reflected contemporary Caribbean life and we appreciated that," Philip said. "We certainly didn't want to put out work that was parochial and twee."
After a call for submissions earlier this year, the plays chosen were Mr Singh by Derron Sandy, Water More Than Flour by Elisha Efua Bartels and Aron by Kyle Hernandez.
Harris came to Trinidad in June to record the dramas and she was full of praise of the local team she worked with including a "wonderful production assistant Ariana Herbert" and sound engineers Kasi and Robin Foster.
"The thing that knocked me out is the sheer depth and range of talent in everyone I worked with," Harris said.
"The writers excel across different genres of writing and performance. They write poetry, prose and scripts. They direct, act and perform as spoken word artists. They encourage young people to find a voice in the arts. And the actors work in film, television, theatre—and now radio.
Harris was totally buoyed by the commitment from all the people involved in the making of the dramas.
"Every single person involved went the extra mile to help me pull together all the ingredients I needed to produce something special for our audiences in the Caribbean and the UK.
"They brought energy, commitment, ideas, experience, imagination and boundless talent. It was a privilege to work with them."
The radio plays will premiere on Festival Radio for Carifesta XVI from August 18 to 20. They will be rebroadcast on August 21, 22 and 23.
They will then run on BBC Radio 3 in mid-September.
Festival Radio will kick off with coverage of the Carifesta opening ceremony on August 16, and for the rest of the festival, the station will broadcast a mix of live interviews, live performances and lively discussions daily from 10am to 9pm.
To tune in, download the Carifesta XIV app or visit the Trini Good Media website.
'They called him Kitch'
Anthony Joseph launched his biographical novel “Kitch” with a stellar performance at the 2018 NGC Bocas Lit Fest. This August, the UK-based, T&T writer and performance poet returns to deliver the literary headliner for Carifesta XIV.
In an expanded presentation of that memorable production, Joseph will read from his critically acclaimed fictionalised biography on August 18 at the Big Black Box, accompanied by Modupe Onilu on percussion and steelpan, Krisson Joseph on vocals and guitar, and Douglas Redon on bass, interpreting Kitchener's songs and specially composed music which reflect his time. The free show starts 7 pm.
According to Joseph, "When Kitchener sang 'London is the Place for Me' on board the Empire Windrush on June 22 1948 at Tilbury, Kitchener became a representative of the Caribbean diaspora. His performance epitomises the historical role of the calypso, as people's newspaper, and the role of the calypsonian as messenger, troubadour and griot. In his words and music—beginning with his recordings in London and later, in Trinidad, Kitchener articulated the struggles and joys of Caribbean people in post-war Britain, at a time when battles for Caribbean identity and nationhood raged at home and abroad. Kitchener's life and music represents that movement away from, and, returning to the Caribbean. When we listen to his music, we can begin to understand what it means to be a Caribbean person."
The hybrid novel is the first biography of calypso icon Lord Kitchener. It was published by Peepal Tree Press to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in Britain and was shortlisted for The 2019 Republic of Consciousness Prize, the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (Fiction), and the Royal Society of Literature's Encore Award.
In his review of Joseph's 2018 performance UWI St Augustine blogger Jarrel De Matas declared, "Joseph's novel did more than focus the spotlight on his unique artistic voice, it also re-directed attention to the larger-than-life figure who embodied the lived experience of an entire generation, and whose personality invigorated a nation.
"Never before has a Trinidadian novel made a single artist the sole focus of its literary illustration. So how appropriate is it that Lord Kitchener is the first to have such an honour."
They Called Him Kitch is just one of many evening events taking centre stage during August 16-24 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad at Carifesta XIV, the Caribbean's biggest celebration of art and culture. www.carifesta.net/events-2019
The packed programme showcasing the region's diverse cultural offerings includes a free literary programme, curated and executed by the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, the Caribbean's premiere annual literary festival. For a complete schedule of daily literary events at the Carifesta XIV Grand Market and to register for workshops, including one led by the author of “Kitch” visit: www.bocaslitfest.com/carifesta
This event will be streamed live on fb.com/bocaslitfest