What began as “Culture Week” has exploded into an annual celebration of art, literature, cuisine, music and other cultural assets in an effort to preserve and showcase what makes the Virgin Islands special. The festivities now fall under the umbrella of Culture and Tourism Month, which this year also features the BVI Literary Arts Festival and the 10th annual Anegada Lobster Festival.
Organisers explained their vision for the 2022 celebration during a press conference on Oct. 28, and Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley shared his excitement for the events that got under way this week. “We want to take it to the next level, because we have a real mandate to diversify our tourism product,” Dr. Wheatley said, adding, “It is our intention to ensure that when you come to the Virgin Islands, you have top-of-the-line museums. And, in fact, we have increased the pace to make sure our national museum is being built.”
BVI Tourist Board and Film Commission Director Clive McCoy added, “Hopefully we can make it bigger and better every year.”
The month started with an opening ceremony and opportunity to meet VI artists on Nov. 1. The second-annual BVI Literary Arts Festival, which kicks off this evening, aims to celebrate the literary arts by bringing together authors, publishers, booksellers, and readers over creative activities including workshops and readings. More information about the workshops can be found on the BVI Literary Arts Festival page on Facebook.
This year’s featured panel of international and regional creatives includes renowned Caribbean authors such as Kei Miller, Ana Portnoy Brimmer, Tobias Buckell, Desiree Bailey, Tiphanie Yanique, Derron Sandy, Carlyle Corbin, Andre Bagoo, Sharma Taylor, Yona Deshommes, Dinah Johnson, and Celeste Rita Baker.
VI Poet Laureate Dr. Richard Georges, the president of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, said he is proud to see a robust programme filled with opportunities for community members to learn and create. He also noted that such events have the potential to boost tourism.
As part of the literary festival, panels and workshops will be held Nov. 4-5, and a poetry slam competition will follow from 7 p.m. Nov. 5 at Eileene L. Parsons Auditorium. Participants will have three minutes to perform a piece embracing this year’s theme of “Unspoken, Unwritten, Unknown.”
Music and more
This year also sees the return of Fungi Fest on Nov. 25. Junior Minister for Tourism Alvera Maduro-Caines, who is helping organise the event, said she is excited to see celebrations of traditional music for visitors and residents alike.
Nine bands are slated to perform so far, with a few coming from overseas, she said, adding that no entrance fees are planned.
“We need to really preserve this music,” she said. “We will be having bands from different schools as well to participate. We need to keep that tradition going, especially in the schools.”
A cultural food fair will be held at the same time. Additionally, the Virgin Islands Communal Association will host a “cultural extravaganza” and bonfire on Nov. 12. Organisers are also planning several days of cultural dance demonstrations for students.
The festival will culminate in the launch of a new children’s book: I Want to be a Thatcher Man, by Janice Nibbs.
A bevy of creative crustacean dishes are planned for this year’s Anegada Lobster Fest from Nov. 25-27. The festival begins with a “lobster crawl” covering many of the island’s favourite bars, and early on the last day there will be a “Butter Sauce Tramp.”
“In addition to promoting gastronomical tourism, the event is expected to promote the major attractions to explore and the activities to experience on Anegada,” Mr. McCoy added in a press release.
Ten restaurants are putting their culinary creations to the test while providing live entertainment. Lobster samplers will cost $10.
Mr. McCoy encouraged attendees to be sure to give one new addition a try: vanilla lobster ice cream from The Wonky Dog.
He noted that hotels and car rentals are booked up for the weekend, but he said ferries will be running among the sister islands and groups can consider booking catamarans or yachts for the day.
Attendees can download a digital guide to Lobster Fest with information about menus, ferry schedules, an island map, emergency contacts, and other fun activities. For more information, go to www.bvifoodfete.com.