As The BVI Literary Festival enters its fourth year, Erin Paviour-Smith learns that for many reasons, this celebration of the written and spoken word should be on the must-DO list of all the world’s book lovers.
Photography by Kamaal Lettsome & H. Lavity Stoutt Community College

A book, I soon learned, was time travel. Each page held irrefutable power.

-Safiya Sinclair, How to Say Babylon: A Memoir

Hosted by H. Lavity Stoutt Community College in partnership with the BVI Department of Culture and supported by an esteemed group of sponsors including the UniteBVI Foundation and VP Bank, the BVI Literary Arts Festival recognises our cultural identity through literature as part of BVI Culture and Tourism month of November.

The BVI Lit Fest, as it is fondly known, rounds out an impressive staple of annual festivities that challenge the mind and body. For sailors, the BVI Spring Regatta & Sailing Festival, for foodies, the Anegada Lobster Festival and BVI Food Fete, for music-lovers, OneVI Music Festival and the colourful demonstration of our authentic culture – the BVI Emancipation Festival.

“We have many other events that are well recognised and attended. For writers and book lovers, the BVI is a big draw. It has a unique atmosphere, a rich and intriguing history, and of course a visually stunning environment that provides inspiration at every turn – that is why literary enthusiasts want to come here” says Dr Richard Georges, President of the College and the Territory’s first Poet Laureate. His most recent book, Epiphaneia, won the 2020 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature.

Dr Richard Georges, President, H. Lavity Stoutt Community College

This year’s BVI Lit Fest, set for 7-10 November is titled “Roots to Routes”. The list of authors confirmed thus far reads like a who’s who of internationally acclaimed writing luminaries including Safiya Sinclair, whose multi-award winning How to Say Babylon: A Memoir is a goose-bump-inducing read that amongst many other notorieties featured on President Barak Obama’s favourite books list of 2023.

Jason Allen-Paisant, also hailing from Jamaica is a scholar, writer, and winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry. Celeste Mohammed is a Trinidadian lawyer-turned-writer and winner of the 2022 OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature, the 2022 CLMP Firecracker Award for Fiction, and finalist for the UK Society of Authors McKitterick Prize for Fiction.

“UniteBVI’s mission is to inspire a generation of future global change-makers. What better way is there to change ideas and create new ones, than to be exposed to the arts, particularly literature? We are proud to partner with H. Lavity Stoutt Community College to present this wonderful event to our community and beyond” says Dr Sauda Smith, Executive Director of the UniteBVI Foundation.

Light A Fire poetry showcase at SushiBar.

This year’s event schedule is, to say the least, enticing. It will not only challenge the minds of guests, but also showcase a selection of the Territory’s most gorgeous locations for the evening events, starting with the strictly limited Writer’s Welcome Reception at private Allamanda Estate with its commanding views over at least twelve islands in the Sir Francis Drake channel.

On day two, after the panel discussions, readings, and lectures on campus, the Festival hosts Sunset Stories at Brandywine Estate Restaurant where guests mix and mingle with the authors while enjoying readings with a glass of bubbly and French-inspired nibbles.

Day three begins with the Writing with Writers Workshops, tailored especially for avid readers, aspiring writers, literary enthusiasts, poets, authors, and editors. On the same day, The Literary Wonderland for children, also on campus, is led by the Virgin Islands Studies Institute and primarily features local writers.

The children listen to readings, get involved in dramatisations and have the opportunity to write their own books, utilising the Itty Bitty Book App. “This demystifies books, reading and writing for the children and appeals to them on their level – which in this day and age is important for planting those literary seeds” says Dr Georges.

The evening event on day three is the poetry showcase Light A Fire in the relaxed atmosphere of SushiBar, a delightful outdoor restaurant in the heart of Road Town with a fairy-lit tropical garden.

The 2024 BVI Lit Fest will then close on day four on a high note with the Book Brunch at the upscale, chic Long Bay Beach Resort on Tortola’s West End. Enjoy brunch in a gorgeous beachside location while diving into the pages of one of the guest author’s works.

“Bringing formidable minds to these islands to “Bringing formidable minds to these islands to inspire us to think and to learn more aligns with VP Bank’s DNA, cultured by our Founders, the Guido Feger Foundation, whose sole purpose is to support causes with a social, charitable, and cultural emphasis. We are proud to provide continuing support for this burgeoning cultural festival” says VP Bank’s Joanna Vass.

In our Fall edition, we look forward to providing more details of what is in store for the 2024 BVI Lit Fest – Watch this space!