Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports
Department of Culture
Release Date:
Tuesday, 4 July 2017 - 5:36pm


Tuesday, 4th July,  2017

Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen.

Welcome to the official launch of Festival 2017. The Virgin Islands will commemorate 63 years of Emancipation Celebrations under the theme “A Colourful Kaleidoscope to be seen, Creating a Cultural Scene for Festival 2017”.   I would like to thank Ms. Kayasha Mactavious and  Ms. Tiana Hewitt for their winning selections. For the past years, our themes and slogans have shown the link between this celebration and our culture because culture is an integral part of our Emancipation Celebrations. It reiterates that we cannot forget our practices and ways of life that have identified us as a unique people.

It is no secret that festival celebrations mean different things to different people.  For some it may mean the enjoyment of long holidays and merriment.  Others may observe the true meaning of the celebrations by recounting the life of our forefathers, their struggles and their fight for freedom which is the true meaning of the celebrations.   For persons like the Chairman and members of the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee it is a time when some of the toughest back breaking work to ensure the staging of our National Festival takes place.

The organisation of our festival is not easy. It is a mammoth task saddled to those whose hearts often swell with national pride as they work to make the celebrations a success. On occasions like these, we remember the efforts of many great Virgin Islanders like the Late Norwell Harrigan and Mrs Esmie Downing, Mrs Margaret Borde and Mr Karl Dawson, Mr Ishmael Scatliffe and Mrs Eileene Parsons just to name a few – who were the foundation of our festival.   It is well known that the road to festival may often times be stormy but in true spirit it takes on a life of its own and when it happens it’s always one for the history books.

This year’s Festival honouree is well fitting. He was no stranger to the Emancipation Celebrations and was probably involved in every aspect of the festival – from devoting his time on several committees to village production to media promotion – the late Neil “Mr. Melee” Blyden is well deserving of being honoured for the 2017 Emancipation Celebrations.

Mr. Melee was instrumental in implementing what we now know as our international weekend in the Road Town Village. He was a cultural patriot and used his media resources to promote local bands and their music leading up to and during the festival season. Mr. Melee was a staple on the water front for the August Monday Parade where his ZVCR trailer was always visible. Since his death, I often wonder from time to time what August Monday will be like without Mr. Melee’s presence. We thank Mrs. Janice Blyden for allowing us the opportunity to celebrate her late husband for Festival 2017.

As we create a cultural scene for festival 2017, I encourage our local groups, dancers, schools and associations to partake in our annual August Monday Parade. I have been receiving great feedback from the committee and we anticipate that this year’s parade will be grand. Several troupes have already started to promote their costumes and partial routines on social media, creating a friendly competitive hype that has not been seen in years. I encourage other interested persons to collect your forms at the Department of Culture and register today. 

Festival has some great highlights this year, including the grand opportunity that our Miss BVI 2017 will experience. I am pleased that our Executive Committee and the Miss BVI Sub Committee saw it fit to merge with the Miss World and Miss Universe Franchises for the betterment of the pageant and overall experience of the crowned queen. I would like to thank Ms Alicia Hamm, chair of the Miss BVI Committee and the Miss Universe Franchise and I would also like to thank Mr. Damion Grange, chair of the Miss World BVI Franchise. They and their sub committees have been working tirelessly to ensure that we have a successful joint pageant and reign of Miss BVI 2017. We anticipate that this relationship will elevate the roles, responsibilities and status of Miss BVI as a territorial ambassador.

It is important to recognise our Platinum Sponsor, CCT Global Communications and our Silver Sponsor, National Bank of the Virgin Islands, both of whom have been avid supporters of our festival activities over the years. We are truly excited to have our local companies invest in these celebrations annually. It says to me that they are committed to giving back and enhancing the local community. Their efforts and promotion of festival is an invaluable service that we owe a depth of gratitude.

Festival 2017 would not be taking place without the hard work and dedication of the Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee headed by Chairman, Mr Trefor Grant. I also wish to thank the sub-committee chairs and the many volunteers who continue to work tirelessly to ensure that the celebrations are successful. Your commitment is truly appreciated.

Thank you.