Tue | Oct 20, 2020

Jamaica top of the Heap - Writer wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize for Caribbean

Published:Thursday | June 4, 2020 | 12:26 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
Brian Heap
Brian Heap

Emerging as the Caribbean winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize has stunned celebrated Jamaican author and theatre director Brian Heap, who initially planned to use the competition as a spark to complete a work he had been fiddling with for five years.

Heap, a former senior lecturer and head of the Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts, said he was surprised when he was shortlisted for the top 20 from a pool of more than 5,100 creatives from across the world.

“I would have been happy just to be in the last 20, but winning the regional prize is even better,” he said.

Heap’s winning piece, Mafootoo, documents the encounters of a Jamaican woman who migrated to London with her husband in the 1960s.

“The story starts with her actually waiting for a taxi to take her somewhere. We don’t know where it is at the beginning, but she ultimately faces a major crisis, and she has to make some decisions. So the story is largely about that Windrush generation in England and the kind of situation that they find themselves in old age,” said Heap, who grew up in England.

“I kind of emphasised with that situation where people are displaced, and it kind of grew on me, the main character,” the 70-year-old author told The Gleaner on Wednesday.

Heap went up against fellow Jamaican Sharma Taylor and Brandon McIvor from Trinidad and Tobago to secure the Caribbean prize. He will now go up against the winners from Africa, Asia, Canada, Europe, and the Pacific in a bid to become the overall winner.

The ultimate winner will be announced during a special awards ceremony on June 30.

But Heap, who has worked in drama and education in Jamaica for more than 40 years, is not worried.

“I feel like I’ve achieved an enormous amount already,” he said.