A Celebration of Guyana in Poetry and Music

Guyanas artists

With John Agard, Malika Booker,  Grace Nichols and Keith Waithe

Friday 28 October 2016 at 6pm; Senate House, London

Guyana is a unique country on the continent of South America — from being the only English-speaking nation on the mainland to its diverse multiracial population, from its Dutch, Arawak and Caribbean influences to its rich plethora of natural resources, rivers and rainforests. And Guyanese culture is equally as polyphonic, melding ancient rhythms and languages of the indigenous populations with those of newer arrivals from Africa, India and Europe.

Celebrating 50 years since its independence from the United Kingdom are four of the most well-known artists from Guyana, whose work reflects the country’s colourful past and present. Come and listen to three award-winning poets – John Agard, Malika Booker and Grace Nichols – whose lively work moves from a newly independent Guyana to a postcolonial Britain both uncomfortable with its new arrivals yet strangely home. Alongside them is noted flautist Keith Waithe, playing his distinctive fusion of jazz, classical, African, Caribbean, Asian and Western music. It promises to be an unforgettable 50th birthday party.


Venue: Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Date: Friday 28 October
Time: 18:00-19:45
Tickets: £7 / £5 for Imagining the Guyanas Conference delegates

John Agard is an African-Guyanese poet, playwright and children’s writer who has been living in the UK since 1977. Author of over 40 books, he has performed all over the world and his work is taught in British schools. He has won numerous awards, including the 1982 Casa de las Américas Prize (Cuba) for Man to Pan, the 2003 Cholmondeley Award and the 2012 Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Malika Booker is a British writer, poet and multi-disciplinary artist of Guyanese and Grenadian parentage. She founded Malika’s Poetry Kitchen, a writer’s collective for beginning and emerging poets. Her poetry collection Pepper Seed was published by in 2013; it was longlisted for the 2014 OCM Bocas Prize and shortlisted for the 2014 Seamus Heaney Centre prize for first full collection.

Grace Nichols is a Guyanese poet whose first collection, I is a Long-Memoried Woman (1983), won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. Much of her poetry is characterised by Caribbean rhythms and culture and influenced by Guyanese and Amerindian folklore. In 2011 Nichols was a member of the first ever judging panel for a new schools poetry competition named Anthologise, spearheaded by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Keith Waithe is a Guyana-born musician, composer and teacher, based in the UK since 1977. He is best known as a flautist and founder of the Macusi Players – a world music jazz band whose name derives from the indigenous Guyanese Macushi people – and has been ‘acknowledged as the best flute player that Guyana has ever produced’. He has developed a technique he calls ‘vocal gymnastics’, using the voice to reproduce percussive sounds.