On June 12, 2022, PREE held its first live public event at Ormsby Hall in downtown Kingston. A mini-litfeast, the event featured 9 writers reading from their work in front of an enthusiastic crowd, surrounded by sculptor Laura Facey’s exquisite wood carvings and artwork. The litfeast was an abbreviated version of what should have been a 4-day residential writing studio, studded with public discussions and readings, originally planned for 2020 and postponed twice due to pandemic exigencies.
The weekend was built around appreciating and feting PREE’s inaugural scholarship winners, four of whom were present with us in Kingston: Tanicia Pratt from the Bahamas, and Jovantė Anderson, Yashika Graham, and Kaleb D’Aguilar from Jamaica. The fifth winner, Ada M. Patterson, was unable to join us. In lieu of the writing studio PREE hosted a series of seminars by writers Diana McCaulay, Roland Watson-Grant, Keil Miller and Marlon James on June 11-12, 2022, for a small intimate group, including our scholarship winners, on the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies. Funded by a Next Generation grant from the Prince Claus Fund, the seminars were followed on Sunday the 12th by readings and performances by the writers mentioned above and special guest, Stacey-Ann Chin.
PREE’s first litfeast was mounted at historic Ormsby Hall, a site recently resuscitated by Laura Facey, whose latest exhibition, Laboratory of the Ticking Heart, was mounted there. Ormsby Memorial Hall was inaugurated on June 5 in 1930 and named after Rev. Stephen Ormsby of the Anglican Church in Kingston. Rev. Ormsby had ceaselessly campaigned for a purpose-built hall for the arts and many a concert and theatrical production was held there over the years until it gradually fell into disuse.
If an urgent need was felt for a performance venue such as Ormsby Hall in 1930, the demand for one nearly a hundred years later in an era when Jamaica’s immense contribution to global intellectual property has been widely acknowledged, is a hundred times multiplied. At PREE we were only too happy to lend our support to the campaign to restore Ormsby Hall as a site for creative productions and performances. Its location downtown is an added boon, and we view PREE’s inaugural litfeast as a contribution towards Kingston Creative’s efforts to revitalize the city.
In 1932 a Gleaner ad for a series of plays at Ormsby Hall announced, “As this is the coolest entertainment hall in Kingston, and as the choice of plays is excellent, a large crowd is expected.” Ninety years later, as our choice of writers was excellent, and the venue remains the coolest entertainment hall in Kingston, it gave us at PREE great pleasure to welcome an enthusiastic crowd of about 150 literature lovers to an afternoon of memorable readings and performances by a series of rockstar writers.
The Litfeast also gave us a chance to introduce Bookmarked, the first print edition to come out of our print arm, PREE Ink. An anthology of selections from the first five issues of PREE, Bookmarked is available from Rebel Women Lit, at the National Gallery of Jamaica, Fontana Pharmacy and Sky Gallery.
For those who missed the event you can view the archived video of our livestream on PREE’s YouTube channel, linked here. Do subscribe to our channel and to PREE (preelit.com) to keep up with the latest from new and emerging Caribbean writers.