354 James Walter Francis Drive
RJT Edifice Building, 5th Floor
Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
Fax: 284 468 2750
Culture and Tourism Month
Madam Speaker, the month of November is upon us, and Culture and Tourism Month is here again. This year will be the fourth annual Culture and Tourism Month and is being organised under the theme, “Our Virgin Islands, Our Story: Tell Your Story.”
I have asked the Junior Minister for Culture and Tourism, the Honourable Luce Hodge Smith, to spearhead the activities, and I am very pleased with what I have seen. I also wish to commend the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sustainable Development for the work that they have been doing. During this Culture and Tourism Month, it will become quite apparent that, when it comes to tourism, our culture and heritage have a major, authentic story to tell – made up of many fascinating stories.
Earlier this year , the Cabinet of the Virgin Islands approved the Virgin Islands Culture and Heritage Policy and Strategy. This document is a culture AND heritage policy. Therefore, it is only fitting that Culture and Tourism Month begins in a major way with highlighting one of our most unique sites - the St. Phillip’s Anglican Church ruins and heritage site in the historic village of Kingstown.
The opening ceremony for Culture and Tourism Month is scheduled to take place tomorrow, Wednesday, 1st November, 2023, at 5:30 p.m. at the St. Philip’s Anglican Church ruins and heritage site. I encourage everyone to attend, it will tell the story of this heritage site through dramatic performances and the performing arts. Brochures on this heritage site will also be distributed during the opening ceremony.
Following the opening ceremony is the BVI Lit Fest, which is filled with panel discussions, lectures, readings, “agent one-on-ones”, workshops, interviews, poets’ showcase, a “literary wonderland children’s programme”, a book brunch, and so much more. The BVI Lit Fest grows from strength to incredible strength, and the topics being covered are extremely relevant to our Virgin Islands society today. I encourage everyone to take advantage of the offerings.
Madam Speaker, I have been especially pleased to see the increasing emphasis on cultural education, which is included during the Month. Cultural education is a topic that has been publicly discussed and called for – for quite some time. The Department of Culture has generated a list of our cultural books which many of our authors have written for children, and which creatively shared the Virgin Islands’ culture and heritage. The Department of Culture will be donating packets of these cultural books to schools in order to connect this rich literary work with our young people. I pause here to reflect and remember literary giant and cultural icon, Mrs. Jennie Wheatley, to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.
The cultural education initiatives do not stop there, Madam Speaker. On the 8th and 15th of November, there are two virtual cultural education panel discussions entitled, “Cultural Education through the Lens of the Literary Arts/Literature in the Virgin Islands” and “Cultural Education through the lens of the Culinary, Performing and Visual Arts in the Virgin Islands.” These panel discussions will feature educators from the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and I am excited about this collaboration between the Department of Culture, the Ministry of Education and the education sector. We will learn about the value of arts education to the youth, and the ways in which the arts can be used to immerse our children in Virgin Islands culture and heritage. This dovetails perfectly with the emphasis of the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports on STEAM; the ‘A’ in STEAM represents the arts as we all know.
At this point, Madam Speaker, I want to commend three individuals who stepped forward and will be donating plait poles to the Ivan Dawson Primary School. These are Andre “Shadow” Dawson, Rochelle Smith, and Janice Stoutt. The Department of Culture will be collaborating with these persons to ensure that plait poles are distributed to all schools in the Virgin Islands - as yet another cultural initiative.
Madam Speaker, it was just on 13th October, 2023, that the House of Assembly passed a resolution to designate ten national heroes. The efforts at telling these important stories have already begun and on Saturday, 18th November, 2023, at the Eileene Parsons Auditorium at the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, we will have an evening of performance in honour of these national heroes. The programme, titled, “Remember My Name,” is an exciting collaboration of key individuals in the performing arts and will feature theatre, dance, poetry, visual arts and documentary footage. The Department of Culture has been working with individuals such as Janice George Harris, Heather Butcher, Sasha Creque, Sylvanna Charles, secondary school teachers of theatre – Salisha King and Glennecia Samuel – poet Daiikuru Maximillion, and our students from the Adagio Dance School, the Elmore Stoutt Secondary School and the Bregado Flax Educational Centre (Secondary).
On Sunday, 19th November, 2023, at UP’s Cinema 1, we have the Film Screenings and Awards Ceremony for the 284 Excellence Film Competition. Last year, the Film Commission did an excellent job with its film competition and I am very excited to see the results this year.
The week of the 20th to the 26th is an active, major week. Madam Speaker, this is Culture Week for the schools, and the schools have consistently and collectively produced an entire week of cultural immersion and activities. The Cultural Food Fair Extravaganza is being held on Friday the 24th of November at the Noel Lloyd Positive Action Movement Park. This Cultural Food Fair will truly be an extravaganza which features not only our favourite cultural foods and delights but also our literary and visual artists, and the inclusion of our schools in the programme of events. To add fuel to fire, we have the highly anticipated Anegada Lobster Festival spanning 24th – 26th November, 2023. This year’s Fungi Festival has been expanded from one to three. Fungi Fest travels to Jost Van Dyke on the 24th, Tortola on the 25th, and Virgin Gorda on the 26th.
Additionally, plans are now being finalised for observance of the Commemoration of the 1949 Great March and the Restoration of the Legislative Council which is being commemorated as a public holiday on 27th November, 2023.
Madam Speaker, we will close out Culture and Tourism Month by returning again to the theme of heritage tourism. We will have the closing ceremony at The Stickit in Long Look on 30th of November. This time, we will be looking at the Long Look Heritage Village through a fresh and different perspective. The Department of Culture will be actively working with the Seventh and Eighth District Heritage Society.
I now close by encouraging everyone to attend and fully participate in, as many of the events as possible.It is through activities and events such as the ones that have been organised for Culture and Tourism Month that we are able, as a people to deepen our appreciation and heighten our awareness and knowledge of Virgin Islands culture and heritage, while also strengthening the unique cultural identity and building closer bonds as a community,.And, Madam Speaker, I’ll just have to say that we should not forget either the Lobster Festival, which is one of the signature events, and of course, that’s going to be on the 24th-26th of November. We encourage everyone to be a part.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.