WE BID a fond farewell to Carifesta XIV and congratulate all involved: whether performers, organisers, artists and craftsmen, and visiting delegations who joined the throngs who turned up at festival events in the Queen’s Park Savannah and elsewhere in record numbers.
It was a memorable festival that transformed the capital city and environs with its lively shows, cultural highlights and provocative debates. It is hoped lessons can be learned ahead of the next edition, in 2021 in Antigua and Barbuda.
One such lesson is that it pays to give the festival as wide a scope as possible. For this year’s event, the organisers drew upon substantial local resources and, in the process, made a point about the multitudinous nature of our culture. The TT Film Festival and the NGC Bocas Lit Fest were among the many stakeholders that were incorporated into the proceedings.
The inclusion of such key stakeholders, representing film and literature respectively, ensured there was something for everyone.
As ever, the festival had a wide reach, which befitted its grand ambitions. Delegates were drawn from the 15 member states, as well as five associate member states. The Savannah was transformed into a cityscape, with interesting and impressive facades which generated interest and injected colour and cheek to the proceedings. Dozens of booths sold food, drink, arts and craft, exposing regional retailers to new vistas.
The festival reportedly cost $43 million and organisers said despite not having as much money as they would have liked they were able to make magic.
However, some aspects of the festival were not magical and will require attention going forward. A major grouse was the unwieldy ticketing system which forced people to stand in line for hours and, in some cases, saw people made to wait even when no more tickets were available.
Additionally, several sources reported empty seats reserved, as customary, for dignitaries. Such a practice is customary, but in light of the overwhelming demand organisers could have well allowed seats to be filled once it became clear specially-invited VIPs were not going to turn up.
The overall experience, however, was a very positive one which saw Carifesta do what even our politicians fail to achieve. There was a spirit of positivity amid the intermingling of different people.
Already, Antigua and Barbuda is preparing to take up the baton for 2021 by linking the festival to its tourism sector, both in terms of regional and international visitors.
There was a Carnivalesque aura surrounding much of the proceedings, with fetes, street parades, costumes and soca artists performing. While this brought a good energy, we should also aim to encourage the deepening of our creativity in sustainable ways to add richness not only to our economy but our society.