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Founder of Bocas Lit Fest Marina Salandy-Brown.

Bocas Lit Fest, the embodiment of Caribbean vibrancy, energy and creativity, along with its founder, Marina Salandy-Brown, was celebrated by the International Women’s Forum (IWF) in the “Ideas Remaking the World” segment of its World Leadership Conference on November 4 and 5.

The International Women’s Forum is a global organisation whose mandate is the advancement of women’s leadership and the championing of equality worldwide. IWF operates in 33 countries, including T&T, with a membership of over 7,500 pre-eminent women leaders across the globe.

The International Women’s Forum Trinidad and Tobago (IWFTT), of which Salandy-Brown is a member, nominated her and Bocas Lit Fest for the prestigious award earlier this year. “Ideas Remaking the World” is one of IWF’s flagship programmes, and the Salandy-Brown/Bocas Lit Fest nomination was the T&T Forum’s first to this programme.

More than 25 entries were submitted to the “Ideas Remaking the World,” representing initiatives in digital technology, science, entrepreneurship, and the arts, among other categories. Marina Salandy-Brown’s Bocas Lit Fest was one of just three from among the many innovative ideas submitted, to be selected by the panel of judges. The other two selected idea generators were Jensine Larsen from Oregon (Global Women’s Digital Revolution) and Nanette Archer Svenson of Panama (Mobile Literacy: WhatsApp Remote Reading).

The three chosen ideas remaking the world were shared by their founders in presentations at the 2021 IWF World Leadership Conference and Gala.

The Bocas Lit Fest was founded in 2010 and is best known for producing T&T’s signature annual literary festival, the NGC Bocas Lit Fest, which celebrates books, writers, writing and ideas with a Caribbean focus and international scope. The festival brings together readers and writers from T&T, the wider Caribbean and internationally for readings, performances, spoken word, workshops, discussions and film screenings, among other activities.

Celebrating current as well as future literary luminaries, the Festival also includes a full programme of activities for young readers and writers in its parallel children’s festival as well as a popular, month-long storytelling caravan that goes around T&T in the lead up to the Festival.

In addition to being the founder of Bocas Lit Fest, a non-profit organisation, Salandy-Brown is also its vice president and Festival Director. In the last ten years of its existence, Bocas Lit Fest accumulated many achievements, foremost among them the publication and distribution of nine fully illustrated children’s story telling books featuring 155 stories created by children; hosting 831 different events with 750 Caribbean writers; delivering 72 workshops and master classes in T&T, Jamaica, Guyana and St. Lucia; and engaging over 150,000 students in more than 250 secondary schools, in a nationwide spoken word tour, along with the 2Cents Movement. Its continuous virtual events during 2021, including the First Citizens National Poetry Slam and an array of new projects, aim to build capacity at all levels of the literary sector, starting with the young, in and out of school.

The Festival has received numerous kudos over the years, including being chosen as one of the Top 20 in the world, and the accomplishments of the Bocas Lit Fest have extended beyond the euphoric charm of the annual festival events, into tangible spaces where opportunities are created for Caribbean writers to present and publish their work, as well as meet and network with their peers from the United States and Canada, South America, United Kingdom, Africa, India, Asia and the Pacific regions. It has literally opened the world to Caribbean writers.

Salandy-Brown’s enthusiasm and passion for the work of the Bocas Lit Fest are legendary. And it is this passion that has driven her and her team to extend beyond the annual festival, into a year long litany of activities comprising Bios and Bookmarks, a Sunday one-hour-long chat with leading Caribbean authors resident around the world; monthly writing workshops on poetry, fiction and literary non-fiction; Survival Kit, a series of monthly art, music and literature offerings; a monthly bulletin of literary news, a publishing consultancy providing advice on editing and commercial publishing; and Bring your Own Book and Bottle, which is a monthly, online international chat-in about books with the Bocas’ book network; Peekash Press, to publish new Caribbean writing; Friends of Bocas, offering readers access to a rich world of attractive offers, plus several ad hoc events.

Where to next for Salandy Brown and the Bocas Lit Fest? The sky is the limit.