A 'Heap' of podcastsThursday, April 08, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
RETIRED University of the West Indies lecturer and dramaturge Dr Brian Heap is expressing delight with the crop of writers unearthed through his recent writing competition, part of his 'giving back' having been named the winner of the Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Caribbean region for 2020.
The winning entries in the local competition, which were divided in two categories — short story and play — along with some of the entries which received honourable mention and one guest work, have been pulled together to form a series of podcasts which will be uploaded once a week until June 13.
“One of the beautiful things about this competition is that it made us realise how much we have been listening to the same voices. There are very few people writing plays in Jamaica — Patrick Brown, Dahlia [Harris] and David Tulloch are among the few. So, to hear three or four more new plays and perspectives is so refreshing. The same thing is happening in literature. We now have a chance to hear what young people are thinking about and the different things that are shaping their thoughts and ideas. Our first upload was a story by Janique McKnight and that was a coming-of-age story, and although it was a middle-class setting, it shot across the social spectrum and took us through the lives of these young people from their school days to young adulthood and some of the things that happens to them on this journey,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“The second instalment is a fantasy by Renardo Lewis, and he has plans to take this into animation, which shows the depth of the local stories. Interestingly the next upload is a story set against the background of the Coral Gardens massacre. The strange thing, and this was not planned is that it will be uploaded on April 11, which is the exact date of the incident 58 years ago,” Heap continued.
He added that some of the other topics covered in the stories included the experiences of the Windrush generation as well as Jamaicans fighting in World War II. Heap has shared the link for the podcasts with the Commonwealth Writers Prize Committee which has put it on their various social media platforms, giving additional international exposure to the works.
“The feedback has been great since we started on March 28. That first podcast has 500 listeners so far and the one we put up last Sunday has 250 listeners already. We are so pleased and it shows that there is an interest,” he noted.
Heap said the idea for the podcast came about when he realised he needed to find a way to highlight the high quality of the work he has received.
“I knew I would not be able to publish and, with COVID, there is no possibility of staging the plays. So I got the idea to approach the CHASE Fund to back the podcasts which gets the work out there to a global audience and exposure for these writers who are all students here on campus. So we have the three winning short stories, four plays, four runners-up and one guest piece. The podcast also provides work for actors who do the readings. And as we all know the pandemic has affected the theatre so this was well needed.”
Among the actors who are reading the works are Twyla Wheeler, Desmond Dennis and Nadeen Rawlins.