Whitgift School was honoured to host a visit last week by Nobel Prize-winner, Derek Walcott OBE, at which he gave a reading from a selection of his poems and answered questions from an audience of enthusiastic and aspiring young writers. The celebrated St. Lucian poet and playwright was in the middle of a short European tour, during which he collected a prestigious prize in Milan and directed a production of his play Pantomime at Essex University.
Walcott, who won the 1992 Nobel Prize for Literature, continues to produce rich and successful work and his 2011 collection, White Egrets, won the UK’s premier poetry award, the T.S. Eliot Prize.
Walcott’s reading and talk were peppered with unique insights for his young audience and he responded warmly to excellent questions from the Whitgift boys.
His presence made a striking impression on both staff and pupils. Sixth Former Hafizul Haq, nearing his International Baccalaureate exams, said, ‘It was a wonderful privilege to hear such a genius in our own school’ and Assistant Head, Stewart Cook, commented, ‘It is a wonderful inspiration to our writers to be encouraged to publish their work by such an eminent figure’.
Walcott’s visit in itself had an interesting origin. A chance meeting with Whitgift’s Head Librarian, Atiya Afghan, whilst on holiday in St. Lucia, led to an invitation he was delighted to accept, much to the joy of the School.