In his recent Budget Address, Premier Andrew Fahie promised to build on the arts festival previously organised by late District Five Representative Delores Christopher. Yes, indeed, we are forever grateful to Ms. Christopher, who took up the mantle where the Public Library left off.
Organised by the Virgin Islands Public Library, the arts festivals of the 1970s and 1980s — with their programmes of activities and institution of national awards — had overgrown the library’s resources, and it was Ms. Christopher, not the Department of Culture, who after several years of dormancy filled the void and carried on the tradition of the arts festival in the territory.
Those early arts festivals stimulated young musicians and performers like Mr. Fahie, Lorna Creque, Lisa Penn, Lavon Chalwell, Glenn Harrigan, Edwin Harrigan, Meade Malone, Alverson Vanterpool, Joseph Hodge and many others. Adult performers like Alfred Christopher, Trevor Parris, Ethyln Parker, the late Jim Morris, the late Robert Creque, and others also participated, attracting the crowds.
Fortunately, a few of the publications about those former festivals have survived the ravages of Hurricane Irma, and it is hoped that they will be scanned into the Culture Department’s data system for guidance, and also that the history and evolution of the culture of arts festivals in the VI may be known and preserved.
In the 1979 Arts Festival booklet, then-Social Services Minister Ralph O’Neal wrote, “It is gratifying to note that efforts are continuing to preserve and promote aspects of our cultural life in the community, particularly in the area of the creative arts. I hope that the glimpses represented here will not only enrich the lives of those who experienced them directly, but also those who encounter them through this medium.”
Barrister McWelling Todman added, “The Arts Festival Committee is to be congratulated for having organised the Festival and for publishing this booklet to document and record the winning entries of stories and poetry. It is hoped that the Festival and the booklet will become entrenched as regular features of the cultural life of the BVI, and that each will be a source of inspiration to Virgin Islanders young and old, who may feel the urge to express themselves creatively.”
Barbara de Castro, a representative of the University of the West Indies’ Extra Mural Department, wrote, “The contributors of the BVI Arts Festival ’79 have through the use of their respective art forms recorded for posterity the feelings, sounds, speech and sights of their culture. Let us therefore hail our writers and artistes, the true recorders of our history and culture.”
And finally, this writer, who was then chief librarian and co-ordinator of the Arts Festival, wrote, “The creative process is a living and dynamic force. … It is the confidence to explore and express reflections of one’s own set of experiences; in essence, to recognise the creative process within one’s own self and the integrity of one’s identity. … May each successive Arts Festival inspire within us an awareness of our own creative processes, and our capability to contribute to the common cultural heritage of man, whereby understanding between ourselves and others may increase.”
Besides this writer, members of the 1979 Planning Committee included Alice Beamish, Trevor Paris, Bennet Smith, Irma Smith, Urma Creque, Gerard Farara, Charles Wheatley, the late Enid Scatliffe, and the late Barbara de Castro.
It is our hope that the revived interest will take the arts festival to new heights of cultural and national development for our country and its people.