While our society today has become more complex --- the vestiges of this tradition still remain even down to the Easter Monday cricket match between the Anglicans and the Methodists. Unfortunately, while the sale of food dishes and confectionaries; the “platting of the pole”; the music and the games remain --- the cricket match is but a wind-ball cricket “fete match” which the Anglicans have dominated for the last six years. While it is all in good fun --- as a Methodist I must complain that it is always played on the Anglican home ground and every year they seem to come up with new rules. As one of the Methodist team members remarked: “You all still mad because Reverend Wesley left and formed his own Church?” But despite it all we can hardly wait until next year! Look out Bishop Brooks, Rev. Richardson has us in training already for next Easter Monday!
But the newest addition to the Easter weekend festivities is Festival Del Mar (Festival of the Sea). It began in 2008 and has become a permanent part of the Festivals Calendar ever since. Like a number of other Anguillians I look forward to this festival because of the spirit of community and the cultural atmosphere it engenders. Being naturally averse to wading through large crowds, I picked my spot and enjoyed the Festival for several hours on both days. Everyone seemed to be having fun despite the present financial constraints and most importantly and according to reliable reports the entire festival passed safely without any major incident. Safe and crime free!
A number of questions arose at the table where I was sitting among the steady wave of friends and acquaintances that stopped by from time to time to chat and fellowship. While the topics were numerous ranging from music, to boat racing, to crab racing, to religion, to business, to politics and so on --- there were a number of specific questions about the Festival. When did the festival start? Who started it? Who are its main sponsors? Does the Government fund it? Who is it targeting? What is the long-term vision for the Festival? How can it be improved?
Being a part of the Government during the period of the launching of the Festival I had many of the answers --- but it occurred to me that here again was an important part of history that may be lost. But I was even more moved to do something about the lack of information when at least four separate persons stopped by the table and made the comment: “Whoever came up with this idea should be highly commended!” Then what “took the cake” was when I heard someone remark: “Boy! Haydn and Sam really did a good job putting together this festival!”
Don’t get me wrong! I commend the Government for retaining and supporting Festival Del Mar but I feel duty bound to put the record straight and give credit where credit is due, especially based on the obvious curiosity which abounds. The answer to the first two questions: “when did it start and who started?” can be found in the 2008 Anguilla Tourist Board (ATB) Management Report by the then Director, Mrs. Amelia Vanterpool-Kubisch. She wrote:
“Festival Del Mar, a new event was staged for the first time in Island Harbour. The idea and concept, developed by the Festivals Coordinator (Fitzroy “Briggie” Thompson) was embraced by the Island Harbour community, who took responsibility for the organization of the weekend activities. It was well supported by the community, persons from throughout the island as well as visitors to the island.”
So there you have it! The idea and concept of the Festival was the brainchild of “Briggie” and started in 2008. But of course the journey from an idea to its realization can be an arduous one and the original vision must be the driving force all the way. The question regarding the long-term vision of the Festival and its early organizers is answered in a Press Release from the Festival Coordinator on 26th February, 2008. Briggie wrote:
“Festival Del Mar, which means (Festival of The Sea), was discussed a few years ago at one of the Anguilla Tourist Board retreats and the feeling at the time was that this event should be developed as a community based festival. This year we have decided to introduce this event in the festivals calendar and to host it over the Easter weekend of March 22nd and 23rd. The focus of this festival will surround the sea with all cuisine and activities sea related. The thinking is that this festival has the potential to;
- Enhance our tourism product as it affords locals and visitors the opportunity to enjoy amazing cuisine and meet local fishermen in their natural setting.
- The festival can be a means of creating and increasing awareness as to the importance of the fishing industry within the economic/tourism development on Anguilla, with a view towards sustainability within the fishing sector thus lending to the continued enhancement of livelihoods.
- The festival can bring together the fishing community of Island Harbour (renowned as one of the historically, primary fishing villages on the island) to showcase their fish and seafood offerings prepared in various ways.
- Mr. Othlyn Vanterpool – Chairman
- Ms. Portia Bryan - Secretarial
- Mr. Timmy Webster – Boat Racing
- Mr. Claude Smith – Fishing Tournament
- Ms. Lillian Webster - Fundraising
- Mr. Keith Harrigan – Beach Setup
Without question the Festival lived up to its vision and the important point raised by one of the commentators is that it is the kind of event that brings out Anguillian culture in its purest form and in a manner that has appeal for both residents and visitors. And because of the strong community involvement the total budget for the first Festival was less than EC$ 20,000. Interestingly, the original committee seems to be practically intact and it is not readily obvious that any divisive politics has seeped into its organization. For both these reasons the event seems well suited for these particular times.
The deliberate policy by the Anguilla Tourist Board to create a series of events to target particular groups is a part of a wider policy espoused by the past Government to broaden the island’s tourism product. And according to the 2008 ATB Management Report “the Board assumes the responsibility for the organization of the Annual Summer Festival and Tranquility Jazz Festival, provides support to the Anguilla Arts festival, monetary contributions and marketing support to Moonsplash, the Anguilla Regatta and Festival Del Mar”. So while I have taken the time to use my column to highlight the history and the vision of Festival Del Mar I am conscious about the other events that began a considerable time before, including the Anguilla Summer Festival, for which there is a similar shortage of information as to its origins.
I am certain that by providing this information some readers will be enlightened while others may be encouraged to really find out more about the importance of festivals and events to the development of our product for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors. But most importantly, take notice of the opportunity provided to showcase our talents; preserve our cultural practices; create business opportunities, and; side by side with the destination’s reputation for top notch dining bring attention to the “delectable dishes cooked up by our local cooks and served roadside as well as at small beachside stands all over the island” --- which many critics of international cuisine hold in high esteem. Many of the food lovers who took in the Festival Del Mar experience last weekend would have come away with similar raves about the mouthwatering dishes served up.
But the Easter merriment and the tasty wares at the Festival could not curb the underlying tension associated with these testing times. And very often talk about the Levy surfaced in the conversations sometimes as humorous quips and at other times in serious discussions. At our table on one occasion the argument reached a shrill pitch as a young woman despite the relaxing and entertaining environment could not help but vent her frustrations in the most vocal and animated manner. Her comments brought home to me that there were a number of persons, many who supported the present AUM Government, now looking for reasons to justify and rationalize their actions for imposing the present tax measures. In this particular case, the young lady wanted to convince herself, that the Government had no option but to impose the Levy in its present form --- because the past Government had agreed to it many years ago. The shrillness of her voice, to be more accurate her screams, obviously exacerbated by “stimulating beverages” caused many heads to turn as she tried to make her arguments more persuasive by a scary loudness.
The report I received today on the Chief Minister’s recent radio interview is that he is circulating the false impression that only the Secretary of State can repeal the Levy. Based on Section 57 (1) (a) and (b) of the Anguilla Constitution, there is no question that all Bills require the assent of the Secretary of State before becoming law and except in cases where there is an Order in Council --- Bills are generally initiated by Executive Council then passed through the House of Assembly. Similarly we do not sit down in Anguilla and wait for the Secretary of State to initiate the process for the repeal of an unsatisfactory Law or Act. Having made the case to Executive Council that a particular Act needs to be repealed for good reason --- we then prepare for it to be taken to the House to be debated and hopefully passed. This is the course of action that the leadership of the Anguilla United Front is standing squarely behind.
It appears that the Chief Minister is using Section 59 (1); (2) and (3) of the Constitution that deals with the disallowance of laws to suggest that that is the only method whereby the repeal of an Act can be achieved. Either he has not sought the counsel of his constitutional advisors or he is deliberately trying to sabotage the Leader of the Opposition’s initiative to do what is necessary to have the Interim Stabilization Levy Act repealed. After all, Section 47 of the Constitution cannot be any clearer when it states: “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the Governor, with the advice and consent of the Assembly, may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Anguilla”. This means that the Anguilla Legislature has full powers to introduce and make laws for Anguilla that include by definition both their enactment and their repeal where necessary.In actuality, Hubert would want us to believe that our elected Government cannot do anything about bad laws that may exist on our books unless the Secretary of State takes the initiative.
This blame game must stop! It is never the Chief Minister and his colleagues! It is always the AUF, the Governor, the developers, the FCO, the civil servants, or someone else. Fortunately, we are finding that despite the occasional AUM diehard who refuses to accept the reality of our plight, there is a growing awareness that the Government is “piling stones” in the way of real progress. And to stretch an Easter metaphor --- the serious question is being asked; “Who will roll the stones away?”
Victor F. Banks
April 26, 2011