While all in-person activities and events scheduled for the Tobago Heritage Festival 2020 have been postponed, the event is in full swing virtually, says THA Assistant Secretary in the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation Shomari Hector.
At the weekly post-Executive Council media briefing in Scarborough last week, Hector said the festival, which was launched virtually on July 24, has hosted a number of events to date.
The annual event is one of the island’s signature cultural events and usually held during the two-week period preceding Emancipation Day. However, this year – with the onslaught of covid19, the Tobago Festivals Commission altered the delivery of the festival taking into consideration the covid19 guidelines from the Ministry of Health particularly in terms of physical distancing.
“We of course believe that while you are at home that we have a responsibility to ensure that you treat with navigating the uncertainties of these times," Hector said.
"We are proud in our convictions that we can create an avenue where you can be entertained and educated, where your stress can be alleviated, where your fears can be treated with strategically. So even in the face of a silent monster that is covid19, we thought that it was important to still have some feature of our heritage festivities.”
Hector said the division is mindful of its responsibilities to the public and, where necessary, the timelines would be revised to ensure “that we are not in contravention of our covid regulations and stipulations.”
Specific events which have been postponed are the Pembroke Fireside Friday – a curbside pick-up event, the Roxborough Ole Time Harvest and the production of the Moriah Ole Time Wedding Short Film.
Also affected is the Miss Heritage Personality event which will no longer be held at the Cyd Gray Complex and will now be a virtual production. Hector said he has had extensive talks with the chairman of the Festivals Commission.
“We hold strongly to the view that this initiative, if managed well, can still be undertaken on a virtual platform. We are mindful that changes may necessitate revision to our plans and proposals, so we continue to keep our fingers on the pulse to make informative, decisive decisions as to what would be best in the conduct of our affairs in relation to our heritage and personality show.”
He added: “There would be the pre-taping of the show to be aired in four parts. At no time would there be more than five persons on the stage including props and back-ups. Contestants would be encouraged to incorporate masks as part of their attire. Stage and microphones are to be sanitised after each performer and there would be an expanded stage to cater appropriately for the social distancing protocols.”
Questioned about the festival’s budget and the amount spent on the virtual event thus far, Hector said $5 million for the heritage festivities was approved prior to the onset of covid19.
“It was interesting to note that captured in that number was over expenditure as a result of the last Carnival activities where prizes were not paid then, and so it was encompassed in that particular budget submission.
"That figure, if memory serves me correct, was upward of $1 million which would have brought the heritage budget with specific engagement for 2020 under the $4 million... somewhere in the vicinity thereabout. How that $4 million has been disaggregated to date, I am not in possession of that information.”
He said he has since requested a report which he is yet to receive, but promised to make it available to the public when he does.