Residents of the British Virgin Islands will have to wait another year or two before they can once again enjoy the Rise & Shine tramp, August parade and the full calendar of events usually associated with the annual emancipation festivities.
Culture Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley said on Tuesday that most of the festivities will be held virtually between July 31 to August 5.
In previous years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual celebrations would usually span two consecutive weeks.
“Inevitably, our celebration this year will look different. COVID-19, however, has provided us with an opportunity to be more creative, to have more focus on our local arts and culture and to make sure our heritage is properly recognized,” the minister said during the House of Assembly yesterday.
“As a result of the economic impact of COVID-19, we cannot spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we usually spend feting. As a result of the social distancing protocols, we will not be ‘wuking up’ in a J’ouvert — to say it correctly our Rise and Shine Tramp. We will not be prancing in the street on August Monday, but we now have the opportunity to reflect on the ‘how and why’ we celebrate our festival.”
More about the activities
The minister said this year’s staging of the festival would consist of both virtual events and physical events observing all the COVID-19 social distancing and sanitization protocols. These are, however, subject to the approval of the Environmental Health Department and the Health Emergency Operating Centre.
“We are keeping a keen eye on the situation in the territory as it pertains to the possibility of active COVID-19 cases. Therefore, the current plan is subject to further review, and we will keep you the people informed if there is any reason to change these plans.”
Wheatley said the festival is expected to kick off with a cultural food fair on July 31, followed by a virtual opening ceremony and a virtual poetry slam.
On August 1, the celebration will move to Carrot Bay for a farmer’s market. All churches in the territory are asked to host emancipation services on the morning of August 2.
“This will include our church service at the Long Look Methodist Church where we will tell the story of the Nottingham free people from whom I descend. On that same day, we will also be having a virtual emancipation service, and we will close the evening by putting on a virtual gospel explosion with the likes of Kendra, Oneyke, Jovan Cline, Dwight Hutchinson, Brent Hoyte and others,” Dr Wheatley stated.
On August Monday, there will be a virtual VI Soca showcase. August Tuesday will see the staging of a virtual calypso review while a Festival of Culture & Praise in East End/Long Look will end the celebrations on August Wednesday.
Each one play your part
In the meantime, Minister Wheatley called on all residents to play their role in making this year’s festival memorable.
“I want to take the opportunity to ask businesses, government offices, private offices and other intuitions to do your part in celebrating our emancipation. Decorate your offices, wear festival t-shirts, have festival themed events. Festival belongs to all of us, and we all have a responsibility to bring the joy of festival into focus. We cannot allow COVID-19 to rob us of our pride as a people; we must lift our hands and voices and give thanks to God for his many blessings,” he stated.
This year, the territory is observing its 66th emancipation celebration, and it will be held under the theme: ‘BVI Festival 2020, Be Fully Free, Emancipate Yourself From Mental Slavery As We Celebrate Our Virgin Islands History’.
This year’s slogan for the festivities is ‘Our Cultural Heritage in the Mix As BVI festival Celebrates Its 66th’.
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