St. Martin Book Fair 2012, highest turnout to workshops in 10 years

The "Children’s Room" at the St. Martin Book Fair last Saturday, reflected the attendance in most of the workshops on the festival’s main book fair day at the University of St. Martin (USM).


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The 43 boys and girls, from age 2 to 12, amounted to the largest number of participants in the Children’s Room since the book fair started in 2003. It was also the first time that the overwhelming majority of the workshops had a high number of attendance across the board, said Jacqueline Sample, president of HNP, a book fair organizer along with Conscious Lyrics Foundation (CLF).

In the Children’s Room, "the kids responded very well, paid keen attention to the storyteller and gave good answers to questions that Papa Umpho asked. They had fun and want to do it again. They actually wanted it to be longer," said Nzinga Lake, coordinator of the children’s activities.

Special guest "Papa Umpho" told Kompa Nanzi or Anansi stories "and actually got a brave boy to impersonate the legendary mischievous spider," said Lake. Kiara Meyers, Little Miss St. Martin 2011, made a guest appearance and read a folktale to her peers.

Children from throughout the island and various schools, including the MAC and the I-Can Foundation kept the room abuzz. At least two grandmothers stayed with their grandchildren for the length of the activities, from 9 am to 1 pm.

"A two-year-old boy got his granny to stay with him because he didn’t want to leave after his parents dropped off his bigger brother," said Lake. Both fathers and mothers brought their children to the university campus.

The coordinator had the youngsters participate in activities for boys and girls separately, and activities in which all of the children joined in, including self-esteem motivation and anti-bullying exercises, said Lake.

After 11 am, the girls made an impromptu trip upstairs to Room 202, the massively-attended "Dance Workshop," coordinated by Broadway star Nicole de Weever, while the boys worked on communication skills with Papa Umpho in Room 108, said Lake.

Other activities that had a full-to-capacity or tremendous amount of people compared to previous years were the following workshops – How to make Guavaberry (Colombier Cultural Association), "Writing Your Life’s Story" (Jacqueline Bishop from NYU), and "Caribbean Vegan & Vegetarian Cooking" (Taymer Mason), said Sample.

The "Books Are Boring!" and "literature + technology = future" workshops by novelist Wena Poon and Italian scholar Dr. Sara Florian respectively, "had a fairly good turnout of very appreciative audiences, compared to other years. One mother told Wena that she had been using comics books to get her son interested in reading fir his exams. Both Wena and Sara were pleased," said Sample.

The "FAQs About St. Maarten" presentation (on Friday) and "The Copyright Workshop" on Saturday were cancelled due to scheduling challenges by the coordinators. The Saturday morning literary talk at the Public Library in Marigot was cancelled because of non-attendance.

"This 10th anniversary edition of the book fair had over 20 activities, between six to ten more workshops and other activities than in other years," said book fair coordinator Shujah Reiph of CLF.

"I think this is the best book fair that we’ve ever had, and that’s with all the glitches aside that we have to work on internally," said Reiph.

"We have a good message to send to our partners, potential sponsors, and the general public about this wonderful ‘book fair for the entire family’: the St. Martin Book Fair is growing. It is answering a positive need for our island’s people and for the visitors’ experience," said Reiph.

Some of the 10th anniversary book fair activities will continue. "The 10th anniversary activities started very late because of the timing with regard to funding release but these activities still have to be carried out," said Sample.

"Thanks to Dr. Rhoda Arrindell, when she was minister, for jumpstarting the book fair activities. The Ministry of Education and Culture provided a small sponsorship toward a book of new St. Martin writings that HNP will invite the general public to submit poems for shortly. That anthology will be launched at the book fair in 2013," said Sample.

"The ‘Cuisine as culture’ poster presentation to the schools is continuing along with the presentation of a selected book to the libraries, the prison, and the government archives in Philipsburg and Marigot," said Sample.

Furthermore, "The Book Fair Committee is part of the anti-bullying campaign for the rest of the year with the Peace Is Foundation," said BFC member Ari Sutton. The campaign was launched at the book fair on Saturday with the workshop, "How to Stopping Bullying," coordinated by Eric Fenwick.

The usually three-day St. Martin Book Fair takes place annually during the first weekend of June.

CLF and HNP organized the literary/book festival on May 31-June 2, 2012, in collaboration with the University of St. Martin, the Ministry of Education & Culture (MECSY), the Collectivité de St. Martin, and the strategic partner St. Maarten Tourist Bureau.