Families had an opportunity to ride donkeys and experience other aspects of life in the Virgin Islands in days past on Aug. 9 at the East End cultural and heritage village. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

The big stage in East End had its heyday during past August Emancipation Festival seasons, but organisers are moving away from hosting major acts there.

Instead, they put more focus this year on a Virgin Islands cultural and heritage village set up at the Greenland Playing Field on Aug. 9.

Celebrants still had plenty of opportunities to dance in the early hours of the day during the East End Rise and Shine Tramp and subsequent beach jam at Long Bay Beach. Water, paint and foam went flying at the well-attended procession, which ended with several celebrants taking the plunge into the ocean off the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge.

Later at the cultural village, stalls were set up around the field with traditional foods and beverages, as well as interactive displays of traditional tools.

Booths at the East End cultural village featured Virgin Islands historical artifacts and traditional foods. (Photo: DANA KAMPA)

Mario “Solid Big” Pickering demonstrated how various metal moulds could be used to cobble a shoe, among other staples used in home life in days gone by.

He said he appreciated the new focus on history in East End.

“The more, the merrier!” Mr. Pickering said of the offering of cultural events.

Showing a new generation what life looked like in the VI for many residents was a highlight of his day.

“We are the elders of our culture, and we have to show where we were to where we are,” he said.

Other vendors including Sylvia Forbes, founder of Island Delights, said they also enjoyed the shift in activities. Ms. Forbes said she particularly appreciated being able to share a traditional conch soup prepared the way her grandmother made it.

She also offered saltfish, dumb bread, and her variety of homemade juices.

East End heroes

The venue also featured a display about the founding of the East End community. One panel detailed the manumission letter Samuel Nottingham penned to the 25 enslaved people at the Nottingham Estate in 1776.

The display also highlighted the lives of significant leaders in history, including John Christopher Flemming, Leslie Franklyn Malone, Willard Wheatley, Terrance B. Lettsome and Delores Christopher.

On Aug. 9, VI Communal Association members — including VICA president and recently elected Junior Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Dr. Karl Dawson — gave voice to some of these figures, giving first-person accounts of the lives they led in politics and social activism.

Gabriel Skelton gave voice to Ms. Christopher, who was the first woman from Long Look elected to the legislature, in 2003. She played an instrumental role in helping residents secure land titles for Nottingham Estate, as well as modern-day undertakings like the Crafts Alive Village, according to the speaker.

Ms. Skelton also condensed a final speech Ms. Christopher delivered in the House of Assembly in 2018, in which she urged members to set aside personal political interests in favour of serving the electorate.

The fungi band Leon and the Hot Shots then took it away, drawing a few more attendees to the grounds despite the late afternoon heat.