Celebrating the Silver Anniversary of Peepal Tree Press, home of Caribbean and Black British writing.
14-15 April 2012: Leeds Metropolitan University
Format: Opening (Which I missed because I was still trying to find somewhere to park other than the £25 per day car park at the Rosebowl. It would have been helpful to have that info beforehand, but I was very grateful for the help from staff in pointing out alternatives)
Presentations: 90 minute sessions x 3: I attended Diasporic Caribbean Identities and thought the presentations too academic for a writer’s conference.
Keynote Speaker: Kwame Dawes who asked ‘when did we stop being theWest Indies and became theCaribbean?’ A highly amusing and thought provoking speech.
Lunch: Uni café with better than average uni food
Presentations:90 minute sessions x 3: I attended Caribbean Queerness and having sat through a very academic paper by Alison Donnell was rewarded by a jaw dropping piece by Thomas Clave entitled Jamaican, Octopus (which he told me later will be published later this year in June) He made me see what brilliant writing looks like.
Presentations: 90 minutes x3: I attended Revisioning the Real: Folklore and Spirituality, and was frankly disappointed by how academic presentations turned what could have been an exciting topic into a dull and boring one. The only real spark came from Amorella Lamount who brought our attention to Kei Miller’s The Last Warner Woman and lit up when she stepped away from the PowerPoint and into the audience. It’s a style worth cultivating Amorella.
Caribbean Word Buffet: Food from Dutch Pot with a host of performers including Kwame Dawes, Sam Elmi, Curdella Forbes, Kendel Hippolyte, Keith Jardim, Anton Nimblett, Simon ‘Sai Murai’ Murray, Patricia Powell, Raymond Ramcharitar and Tanya Shirley.
Live music from Royal Blood
I missed all of the above on two counts. 1) I was exhausted, having spent the previous night inManchesterand not getting to bed till well after2 a.m., and 2) Lunch was late and large and still occupying way too much space in my stomach.
I attended two presentations, well actually I attended three but left after fifteen minutes of the first on the basis that if I lived to be 120 years old it was still too short a time to sit through another dry academic presentation. I went instead to peruse the book stall and all the delectable titles on display. I bought two books. Caribbean Erotic and Dog Heart both of which are published by Peepal Press and relate to Dare to Love. The first is self explanatory and the second because the author tells the story in two voices.
At lunchtime on Sunday I completed the bulk of my feedback questionnaire, and was hovering over an over all middle of the road 3, despite the excellent discussion between Jeremy Poynting (Managing Director of Peepal Tree Press) and Sarah White of New Beacon Bookstore, expertly chaired by Kadija George, but they saved the best till last.
The last two presentations I attended shifted me to a 5. They were 1) The launch of INSCRIBE and Jacob Ross’s reading from the beginning of his new and excellent novel and 2) The Folk Cultures of the Caribbean which gave me more of what I was expecting from this kind of conference. Two excellent papers illustrated with song, dance and drums. Who could not be moved by Abela Collective. Connie Bell’s storytelling, the drumming, and the focus on spirit which raised the energy and lifted us to another space? It showed everyone that we need not lose ourCaribbean identity in order to be academic, we can combine the two. Sadly my camera battery died and I have no pictures of this amazing performance.
It was fitting that the conference ended with foot stomping, hand clapping and dancing, combining the best of all both worlds.
Overall it was an excellent event for networking. I met some amazing people who I know already will become long term friends. I was inspired to take my writing to a higher level (Thomas Clave is such an inspirational person, a bright and shining soul), and to continue telling the stories of theCaribbean.