Children dance in the 2018 August Monday Parade. The newly approved Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Policy and Strategy 2023 to 2028 sets out to reinvigorate the “spirit of emancipation” in the annual August Emancipation Festival. (File photo: AMANDA ULRICH)

In a move designed to protect and develop the territory’s culture, the Cabinet recently approved the Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Policy and Strategy 2023 to 2028, government announced Saturday.

“I am pleased that we were able to ensure public consultations took place for the formulation of the main priority areas of the policy,” said Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley. “I thank the people of the Virgin Islands for doing their part to shape the policy which includes protecting national identity, fostering cultural integration, heritage, cultural education and nation building.”

The policy, he added, is just a start.

“To ensure effective implementation, a decision was also made that the Premier’s Office will instruct the Attorney General’s Chambers to draft parent legislation based on the [policy], which will be termed as the Virgin Islands Culture Act.”

Policy’s provisions

The 99-page policy sets out key concepts and proposes a policy framework, an administrative and institutional framework, a legal framework, and implementation and review strategies. Priorities include strengthening national identity, developing cultural and creative industries, and stimulating social and economic benefits, according to the policy.

Leaders said the strategy aligns with the VI National Sustainable Development Plan, which was developed after engaging the public through more than 60 stakeholder consultations.

Among other wide-ranging provisions, the policy outlines tasks that the government will pursue across its agencies.

“Cultural policy is to be seen as an instrument that aims at empowering people to be liberated in their own creativity and self-development, through which the people are placed at the centre of their own development,” the policy states in its introduction. “The people must be fully confident in their capacity to develop themselves, becoming ‘full, unapologetic, self-confident, sovereign human beings.’”

Key goals

To those ends, the plan proposes specific measures including raising money for museums; creating new heritage legislation; collecting local tales; developing a national heroes programme; setting up a system for designating historical sites; reviewing the budget for culture; and committing a portion of the tourism budget each year to cultural development.

Citing self-determination as a leading principle, the policy also calls for more actions for cultural development, such as promoting literature by printing locally, creating more opportunities for artists to display their works and products, providing more marketing for local musicians, and making local foods more readily available in restaurants.

Another section sets out to reinvigorate the “spirit of Emancipation,” which the policy states is largely “missing” from current celebrations. To address this issue, the policy suggests a “recalibration” to focus on authentic VI culture, and it calls for more private-sector support.


The document also suggests creating a database of all VI cultural practitioners operating both locally and abroad, and engaging them through “social media, mailing lists, and strategic personal contact.”

Additionally, the policy calls for closer working relationships between the VI Festivals and Fairs Committee, the Department of Culture, and the BVI Tourist Board and Film Commission.

Another proposal is a law requiring radio stations, hotels, guest houses and restaurants to display a certain percentage of art produced by local artists.
Timelines for implementation are divided into short term (12 months), medium term (30 months) and long term (60 months). The also document provides for a policy review every five years.

Publication timeline

The draft policy was published on the government’s website the same day. On Feb. 15, government said that it was seeking input.

Consultations began on Feb. 22 in Virgin Gorda and continued in person on the main islands of the territory until Feb. 25. Each of the four sessions was scheduled for two and a half hours, according to a schedule posted by the government on Feb. 17.

Virtual consultations with stakeholders and the public took place later.

The plan was tabled in the House of Assembly and officially “launched” on Feb. 27.