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Festival organisers ‘big up Miss Lou’

Published:Thursday | December 7, 2023 | 12:06 AM
Miss Lou performing in her bandana costume which is an undeniable part of Jamaican heritage.
Miss Lou performing in her bandana costume which is an undeniable part of Jamaican heritage.
Late cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley.
Late cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley.

The second annual Louise Bennett-Coverley Festival, titled Big Up Miss Lou, unfolds on Saturday, December 8, at the Karl Kendrickson Auditorium, Jamaica College, from 5 to 8 p.m.

Big Up Miss Lou brings together a wealth of talent in poetry, song, dance and music genres to pay homage to the legacy of the celebrated folklorist who epitomises the Festival’s motto Fi Wi Langwij, Fi Wi Kulcha, the organisers said in a release.

The featured guest performer will be Jamaica-born Lillian Allen, a professor of creative writing at the Ontario College of Art & Design University. Allen, a two-time JUNO Award winner, is also the seventh Poet Laureate of Toronto. She is described as “a trailblazer in the field of spoken word and dub poetry”.

Her reggae dub poetry/spoken word recordings include the single Woken & Unbroken (2018), the Anxiety album (2012) the JUNO award-winning Revolutionary Tea Party and Conditions Critical.

Allen will be joined on stage by top-tier Jamaican musicians and performers including the 5 band, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis, Gem Myers, Dr Kathy Brown, Charmaine Limonius, Courtney Greaves, aka Little Miss Lou, Ruth Howard, Joy Fairclough and dancers from the Louise Bennett-Coverley All-Age School, Gordon Town.

Tania Hernandez, known as Tania Lou, who resides in Canada, returns to the event having captivated patrons in 2022. Tania Lou authored the book, One Pot, which combines true stories, poems and Jamaican fusion recipes.

This year marks the 104th anniversary of the birth of Louise Bennett, the icon whose poems captured all the spontaneity of the expression of Jamaicans’ joys and sorrows, their ready, poignant and even wicked wit, their religion and their philosophy of life.

A British Council Scholarship took her to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art where she studied in the late 1940s. On her return to Jamaica, she taught drama to youth and adult groups both in social welfare agencies and for the University of the West Indies Extra Mural Department.

She lectured extensively in the United States and the United Kingdom on Jamaican folklore and music and represented Jamaica all over the world. She married Eric Winston Coverley in 1954 (who died in 2002).

Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honoured with the Order of Jamaica (1974); the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture; the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies and the Order of Merit from the Government for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture.

In September 1988, her composition You’re going home now won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie Milk and Honey. In 1998, she received the Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada.

Louise Bennett died on July 26, 2006, in Toronto, Canada.