By George Alleyne
Women swept away the top prizes given out for exemplary prose when the Barbados Frank Collymore Literary Endowment awards a few days ago celebrated its 20th anniversary of formally recognising the work of outstanding writers.
With there being no first prize because the panel of judges found none of the entries worthy of 1hat award, Heather Barker picked up the 2nd prize with her collection of stories, highlighted by a piece titled, ‘The Plundering.’
Sonia Williams won the 3rd prize, which is also based on a collection, but in this instance it was poems under the shared title, ‘Her Bald Head Luminous.’
Shakirah Bourne copped the Prime Minister’s Award, a special prize for the top writer among those who put Barbados in a new, unexpected or unusual light. Her story is ‘Getting Back at Jack Taylor.’
At the weekend ceremony celebrating Barbados’ premier literary artistes, the issue of the ability of writers to earn a living off the artform raised its head as a number of speakers pointed to a need for greater financial input into production of storybook pieces and a meaningful contribution to the bottom line of writers.
“At this point in our development it is important that we move beyond the politeness of lip service to fully appreciating and supporting our writers,” said outgoing Chairman of the FCLE panel of judges, Antonio ‘Boo’ Rudder.
“When we speak of support we’re talking about purchasing the books which many writers have published at tremendous sacrifice and cost.”
“Money always helps,” quipped member of the panel of judges and the ceremony’s MC, Andy Taitt, who made clear, that the appeal for a fund-base for creative writers is made, “without reducing art to simply money.”
Prizes in the annual FCLE awards scheme begin with Bds$10,000 (Bds$1 = 50 cents US) for the first prize winner, and lesser sums for the other winners.
Over the years this money has been coming from the Central Bank that pays the first, second and third place prizes; and the Ministry of Culture that puts out the prize money for the Prime Minister’s Award.
But it was noted that the while the personal one-time reward for the winning submissions is significant, there remains a need for support funding to take many of these Bajan masterpieces to publication, and distribution.
Central Bank Governor, Cleviston Haynes, spoke of a need “to bring prominence to Barbados’ best writers while rewarding them tangibly.
“We need to find avenues to make literature commercially viable for its exponents.”
Noting that Barbados has a fledgling film industry he advised that writers seek to collaborate with persons in this parallel creative sector because “opportunities will emerge for some of our writers to have their manuscripts converted into film stories [and] … synergies between these two art forms should be encouraged as a means of enabling our writers to profit from their talent.”