Thirty-six awards were presented at the 2000 edition of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) Literary Arts Awards Ceremony on Tuesday September 26, at the Hilton Kingston. On an evening when the rain could not stop enthusiasts from filling the venue, the atmosphere was charged with high expectation from entrants, organizers and the sponsors who had turned up to lend full support to Literary Arts.

The evening's function got off to a prompt start with Chairman of JCDC's Board Mr. Vivian Crawford giving the welcome. From then on the evening's proceedings ran smoothly with readings from some of the entrants interspersed with the judges' reports and greeting from sponsors, to make for a rather interesting mix.

The most outstanding readings for the night were excerpts from two Short Stories, which incidentally were the only two gold medal winning pieces of the Competition. They were "Wherever You May Be by Mr. Rudolph Wallace and "The Guardians" by Ms Nadine Tomlinson. Both items were hilarious, to the absolute delight of the audience.

However the judges reports were not so funny, as no awards were given for playwriting, the novel and the Emancipation essay. Even the poetry category which had a record number of entries had its particular woes. One judge, Mrs. Jean Small who adjudicated in the Short Story category gave this sound piece of advice to potential entrants " It might be better to concentrate on honing and polishing one story than to enter all you have available". This was said in a context in which quite a number of participants entered many pieces with none up to the required standard to get an award.

Nevertheless, the participants were given much encouragement, and commendation from the Guest Speaker for the evening, Senior Lecturer, Language and Education, in the Department of Educational Studies, UWI, Mona Dr. Velma Pollard. She impressed upon the audience that it was a very difficult thing to share one's writings, especially for amateurs, hence praise should be given to all entrants in this year's competition. She also recommended that writers go back to the basics of writing such as grammar, and syntax. Additionally, she pointed out that a weakness in writing in Jamaica was that " we often fail to realize that we have two languages, and that they must never be mixed ".

In addition to medals, the gold medalists were presented with cash awards, while the three silver medalists were presented with gift vouchers. Ms Tomlinson was also presented with a voucher courtesy of Compumaster to receive training in computer studies, by virtue of her being the youngest gold medalist. The sponsors for the Competition, Alcan Jamaica Ltd., Kingston Bookshop and Compumaster all praised the JCDC for a job well done, and pledged their support for next year's competition.

Erika Walker
Public Relations Department
September 2000