Over the past two decades, he has become known for his brutally honest critiques of local creative writing.
However, after serving for 20 years, Chief Judge of the Frank Collymore Literary Endowment (FCLE), Antonio Boo Rudder is calling it a day.
Also exiting the FCLE judging panel are Rudder’s colleagues Jane Bryce, Matthews Rochford, and Mark McWatt, who are equally known for their candid analyses of Bajan creative writing.
Delivering his final report last Saturday as Chairman of the FCLE panel of judges, the former Chief Executive Officer of the National Cultural Foundation acknowledged that he had ruffling many a feather over the years, but said: “The committee’s commitment to excellence demands honest evaluation that may irritate sensitive egos.”
Replacing him as chair is Esther Phillips, while Nicola Hunte; Karen Lorde and Yvonne Weekes will fill the spaces vacated by the other retiring judges on the 13-member panel.
“Over the past 20 years we have enjoyed the privilege of reading the works of some of Barbados’ better writers,” Rudder also told those gathered in the Courtney Blackman Grande Salle of the Barbados Central Bank for the presentation of last year’s literary awards.
But in characteristic frankness he was less than kind as he moved away from generalities and focused specifically on last year’s submissions.
“The rush to print and publish remains the greatest danger that writers face in an age where all the technological tools are available for self-destruction,” Rudder warned.
“This year , 62 entries were submitted. Generally speaking, they included a range of interesting pieces, but the content of work in the individual entries lacked consistency of standard. Hence reading became a labour of duty, not love.”
He went on to “irritate” the “sensitive egos” of not only aspiring and/or faulty writers, but managers of this country’s literary affairs.
“In times of social and economic disconnect where life very often represents a fractured relationship with reality, the material we encounter may be indicative of the seriousness of the challenges we face as a nation and the dire need for corrective intervention,” he said.
Consistent throughout the years, Rudder in 2012 bemoaned the disappointing quality of work he and fellow committee members had to review, explaining that for this reason, “members of the FCLE [had] decided that for the second time in our history, the first prize will not be awarded”.
He said at that time the committee “pondered whether the desired standards of excellence have been achieved by the chosen entries”.
Also in 2012, FCLE and its chief sponsor, the Central Bank, had a falling out of sorts and Rudder didn’t pull punches in reporting on that issue either.
He said then, “in many ways the autonomy which the FCLE enjoyed for many years, seems to have been eroded.
“We have been so suddenly enveloped by the bank’s policies that we also experienced an emergency . . . during one of our monthly meetings, and had to abandon our meeting and move to Queen’s Park.”
That relationship has long mended.
This is the Rudder that FLCE has lost to retirement.
He said last Saturday, “20 years is a perfect time for me to make my exit . . . . Clearly it is time for new blood”.
Central Bank Governor Cleviston Haynes said to the four departing judges, “you have bequeathed a rich legacy of discipline, support for writers and Barbadian literature, rigorous scrutiny, and exemplary productivity for future writers, judges, the Bank and lovers of literature”.
Welcoming the replacements he said that they “bring fresh perspective to the development of the art form”.