Political Tensions and Caribbean Voices

The Swanzy Years, 1946–1954

Authored by: Philip Nanton

The Routledge Companion to Anglophone Caribbean Literature

Print publication date:  June  2011
Online publication date:  June  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415485777
eBook ISBN: 9780203830352
Adobe ISBN: 9781136821745


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Central to the surge of creative output from the Caribbean in the post war years was the BBC radio programme Caribbean Voices. Between the years 1943 and 1958 the programme became perhaps the most important focus for the development and promotion of the region’s literary output. The idea for a Caribbean literary programme originated with the Jamaican poet and playwright Una Marson, who, from 1943 to 1945, was its first producer. For the next eight years Caribbean Voices was produced by Henry Swanzy. In November 1954 he relinquished the role. After Swanzy departed the role of producer was rotated among a few of the Caribbean writers then in London till the programme’s demise in 1958. Edgar Mittelholzer, V.S.Naipaul and Edward Kamau Brathwaite were among the producers who temporarily held the post. Swanzy’s years with the programme established him as its driving force. His enthusiasm and skills as a producer turned around a programme that broadcast published work into what was in effect a creative workshop for new writing that offered remuneration to struggling, isolated writers and a platform of criticism for their work. Many of the authors that Swanzy first broadcast went on to achieve international acclaim, notably the Nobel Prize winners Derek Walcott of St Lucia and Trinidad born V.S. Naipaul, Edward Kamau Brathwaite and George Lamming from Barbados, Sam Selvon again from Trinidad, Edgar Mittelholzer, Wilson Harris and Ian McDonald from Guyana and Andrew Salkey, Gloria Escoffery and John Figueroa from Jamaica.

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