Cue Kenny Rogers’ Through the Years…as we launch the 5th installment of the Wadadli Youth Pen Prize (2004 – 2006, 2010 – present), let’s take a look back at moments from the programme’s six year run.
Verdanci Benta wowed the judges with her mature and accomplished entry, Shirley’s New Roommate. The then Golden Grove Primary School student won the ‘best under 12’ category and a spot in the top three overall; a reminder that it’s not about age, it’s about talent. Verdanci would show up in each subsequent competition, earning some form of recognition…most of the time.
Note the BWIA banner in the background? I have to give it up to corporate Antigua for stepping up to support, a new programme they knew little about. That year’s award ceremony was held at Heritage Hotel and a number of them showed up…so of course we had to get a group shot with Culture and Education officials, winners and/or their parents, and sponsor representatives (author S. E. James, front row left, Anicol and Caribbean Star, front row right).
As I look at the pic, I’m reminded how much I loved the stories that first year like, from far left standing, Siena Hunte’s Nuclear Familiy Explosion, Liscia Lawrence’s The Day I saw Evil, Gemma George’s Stray Dog Prepares for the Storm (the winning entry), Lia Nicholson’s Tekin Ahn Day (that’s her mom in the picture), and Damani Tabor’s Irate Beggar. The prizes that first year were well deserved. Here’s Gemma collecting her computer from Gerard Shoul of Comnett:
For all the times I’ve wished I could pursue programmes under Wadadli Pen as a full time paying job, it remains a volunteer gig. But in 2005, it felt like a full time job. There were writing workshops with the kids…
There was prize solicitation…here I am pictured with Paula Lee of Cable and Wireless at a media handover of their 2005 contribution:
There were in-school writing workshops like this one at Buckley’s Primary (which that year submitted the most entries):
There was media promotion, winner recordings, web site development, judging, and, of course, the prize giving ceremony (all of which required a lot of back ground prep from the partners which, at the time, included Young Explorer, D. Gisele Isaac, and Alstyne Allen). It cut into work time, to be sure, but paid off in other ways as this was our best year yet in terms of participation.
The kids were beaming; the Youth Minister stopped by, Heather Doram, the then Culture Director, dropped some wisdom…
and later that year, three of the kids (Rilys Adams, Sarah Ann Li, and Sandrena Martin) won literary awards recognition from the Optimists. All in all, a good year.
We started not with the actual awards but with a joint literary showcase and fundraiser (Word Up!) with the Musuem of Antigua and Barbuda which attracted support from new and established writers (including Wadadli Pen finalists like Sandrena ; and which, as this Jermilla Kirwan image by Laura Hall shows, was highly entertaining .
The Museum (thanks, as always, to Michelle) was once again the venue, later that year, when we staged the Awards ceremony:
Sapped, I shelved Wadadli Pen for a couple of years, but returned …
In 2010 (still pressed for time but even more determined to keep it going) with new partners, an art component, and a theme driven approach (it was part of our Black History Month programme of activities). In that spirit, the awards ceremony was part of a special BHM edition of Word Up (directed by Zahra Airall) which included dancing (Antigua Dance Academy) , drumming (Zucan Bandele and friends), calypso (King Zacari), performance art (Argent), and poetry (Linisa George, ZIA, and Zee’s Youth Theatre channelling various Antiguan writers ).
Wadadli Pen was back…and here to stay (2011 launched just this week!), whatever it takes.
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