Seeking guidance on what events should be featured during August Emancipation Festival and how they should be funded, the government’s Central Statistics Office launched a survey in August.
The results are in, and respondents gave largely favourable reviews of the 2022 celebrations while making suggestions for improvement.
The report, released on Dec. 9, stated that patrons “were generally satisfied with the events of the celebrations but offered a plethora of other events that could be considered.”
Director of Statistics Raymond Phillips said in a Dec. 9 press release that the widely circulated survey — which ran through September — drew 218 responses.
“While this low response rate might not be representative of the entire population, it will serve as a good indication as to how persons in the Virgin Islands feel about the Festival celebrations and shed some light on what are some suggestions for improvements,” he said.
The survey focused mainly on the event types, funding, cost to attendees, and potential locations.
It also asked respondents what events they’ve attended, and how they would rate this year’s line-up.
Only 47 percent claimed to have participated in 2022 events, and 65 percent said they attended. About 22 percent said they didn’t attend this year but wanted to give general feedback.
Results were largely favourable, with most events rating above a three on a five-point scale. People most enjoyed the International Soca Night, which garnered a 3.67 rating, followed closely by the Rise and Shine Tramp — also the most highly attended event among respondents — at 3.62.
The Miss BVI coronation, which varied from previous years by crowning a former runner-up without holding a pageant, got the lowest rating, at 2.26. The warm-up tramp also received a relatively low rating of 2.48.
Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they wouldn’t cut events from future line-ups, and more than half also expressed interest in adding new events.
They offered a lengthy list of written suggestions, including a battle of the bands, a sports day, religious observations, a breakfast fete, historical re-enactments, and more musical celebrations.
They also recommended extending some existing events like Gospel Night an extra day and bringing back the Coney Island amusement park.
Others suggestions included focusing more closely on VI culture and starting planning, fundraising and advertising much earlier.
Many respondents also requested “reasonable” entrance fees, and several sought more focus on regional artists over international headliners that “are unnecessary and costly.”
Regarding how those events should be financed, respondents generally didn’t take issue with entrance fees but said they should be suitable for the shows.
About 60 percent said whether an entrance fee should be charged depends upon that evening’s event line-up. A quarter said there should be no charge, and 14 percent said patrons should pay regardless of the performers.
The survey report noted that hosting Festival is a “very expensive undertaking” shouldered entirely by the government.
It asked respondents who should be responsible for the costs in the future, and 91.6 percent said the Festival should be jointly financed by the government and private sponsors.
“A mere 5.2 percent thought it was the responsibility of government, while 8.4 percent proffered that all funding should be sought from the private sector,” the report stated. “Fundraising, which was the original approach to fund these types of events, was suggested by only 5.8 percent of respondents.”
The report summary said organisers can “now critically review the information gathered to chart the way forward for the future Festival celebrations of the Virgin Islands.”