Learning from a Legend

Earlier this year, I attended a masterclass in fiction writing taught by Professor George Lamming.  One of the elders of West Indian Literature, Professor Lamming is one of those who can both do and teach, and he knows the basics as thoroughly as the nuances.  Many things for which I had only a vague, instinctive sense of ‘this works’ were given a name and a framework.  I am grateful that I had the opportunity to be taught by someone of his calibre, and I thank him for sharing with us his insights and experience as a writer and thinker.

A Naming Ceremony for the George Lamming Pedagogical Centre was held on the evening of 23 June 2009.  I was honoured to be one of four students selected from Professor Lamming’s class to read at the ceremony.  The previous Saturday, I participated in Green Readings 2009.  In both places, I was struck by how writing, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, is never just writing.

The Principal, Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, mentioned in his address that Lamming challenges writers to be responsible for the truth and integrity of the concepts they create through the language they use.  Speaking after the Principal, Lamming went a step further and called on archivists to be aware of the power they hold when they choose what to preserve, because history is founded on the source material made available.  Green Readings, now in its second year, is a literary focus on the Barbadian environment.  This year saw a mixture of celebration of the present, nostalgia for the past, and warning about the future.

Is it too pat to say that a writer shapes the future and preserves the past?  Maybe, but I do know that neither is possible without faithfully observing and documenting the present from all perspectives using various methods.

I left both events feeling a weight of responsibility that was both frightening and thrilling.