Four local bands have made arrangement, through the government, to perform at carnival this month in the neighbouring US Virgin Islands (USVI).
According to Minister of Education and Culture Myron Walwyn, the four are Showtime and VIBE from Tortola, as well as Final Faze and Hardcore from Virgin Gorda.
Bands from the British Virgin Islands had been having a tough time travelling to the USVI due to visa restrictions.
However, based on an agreement reached last year, bands from the BVI now have access to a temporary visa waiver regime, which will only be activated if the USVI government invites the bands to perform.
Walwyn, who carved out the arrangement with the USVI government, said he already met with the bands that will travel to St Thomas in the USVI.
“I met with the entertainers who showed an interest in participating in the festivities in the USVI. We met last week in the Department of Youth and Sports conference room. We had a very open and frank discussion. I was able to discuss with them the conditions of the waiver arrangement. I got a commitment from them that they will respect the laws of the US Virgin Islands – the same that we expect persons who are coming here to respect our laws.”
“I know for sure that contact has been made by the festival committee in St Thomas with entertainers here in the territory, and bookings have already been made. For instance, at the opening night of the carnival in St Thomas, Final Faze out of Virgin Gorda will be playing. I know contact was made with Hardcore band; I think they are playing on the 24th of April. And VIBE and Showtime; contact was also made with them. They are also playing,” added Walwyn.
He indicated that the conditional visa waiver presents entertainers with a grand opportunity to market their music while representing the British Virgin Islands.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for our local entertainers here. I know they are very happy; they are very grateful for it. And we will try our best to ensure that the laws of the USVI will be respected so that we can continue this relationship until we can get the substantive matter addressed – which of course will be changing the legislation. We already got the commitment from Governor [Kenneth] Mapp that he will be working assiduously to have the BVI exempted [from visa requirements],” Walwyn said.
Meanwhile, Eustace ‘Boss’ Freeman from Showtime band has expressed gratitude for the opportunity.
“It feels great. I must first of all commend the minister (Walwyn) for his actions in not only saying he would help out a situation, but actually going out and getting a difficult situation on the right part… Of course we are excited to go over into the USVI and do our thing. We look forward to it. We will be over there in the village, and after we are going to be taking part in the parade as well,” Freeman further said.
He continued: “As you know, once you leave the territory and go overseas, you automatically become an ambassador for the country. So we are really looking forward to going and showing the good music that we have in the BVI to the wider world.”
Manager of VIBE band Roger Frank, in the meantime, underscored the importance of the overseas experience. His band will perform on April 24.
“Job well done. I mean, there has been a cry for quite some time now. With all the things that are happening with bands going over from the BVI and being caught up with the whole [issue of] not being able to enter…we are very appreciative of the effort by his (Walwyn’s) team and ministry, and also the people on the other end [in St Thomas],” Frank added.
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