Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge were conferred the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award for Distinguished Service to Caribbean Letters on April 2, 2022.
The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award is named after the late BBC World Service radio producer Henry Swanzy. He was a catalysing figure in the development of modern West Indian literature, having worked from 1946 to 1954 as producer of the influential Caribbean Voices radio programme, originally founded by Jamaican Una Marson. The Bocas Lit Fest created the award in 2013 in Swanzy’s memory to honour and celebrate the contributions of editors, broadcasters, publishers, critics, and others who have devoted their careers to developing Caribbean literature, often behind the scenes.
Recipients of the Bocas Henry Swanzy Award are selected by the festival’s organising committee and honoured each year at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest. Some of the previous winners have been publishers John La Rose and Sarah White of New Beacon Books in 2013; literary critics Kenneth Ramchand and Gordon Rohlehr in 2014; editor and broadcaster Margaret Busby in 2015; publisher Jeremy Poynting of Peepal Tree Press in 2016; bookseller Joan Dayal of Paper Based Bookshop in 2017; editor and scholar Anne Walmsley in 2018; publisher Ian Randle in 2019; scholar and editor Kamau Brathwaite in 2020; and literary critics Edward Baugh and Mervyn Morris in 2021.
The 2022 awardees, Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge, have been recognised for their work over more than two decades as creative writing teachers and mentors, in particular through the influential Cropper Foundation Writers’ Workshop. Aiyejina and Hodge led the residential workshop from its founding in 2000, guiding and mentoring participants from across the Caribbean, many of whom have gone on not only to be published, but acclaimed for their books. In addition, Aiyejina was the founder of the creative writing MFA (Master of Fine Arts) programme at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine campus, the first degree-granting programme in creative writing in the Anglophone Caribbean.
The Bocas Henry Swanzy Award will be formally presented to Funso Aiyejina and Merle Hodge during a ceremony on Saturday 30 April, as part of the 2022 NGC Bocas Lit Fest.
Learn more about the two awardees by clicking here.