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By Carlena Knight

As the world continues to reel from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government has been forced to scale down next year’s edition of Carifesta.

Antigua and Barbuda is to host the widely acclaimed biennial festival, which celebrates culture and arts from across the region, in summer 2021.

Daryll Matthew, minister responsible for Culture, Festivals and the Arts, said things have changed considerably since the country received the nod to host the event.

“We at the Carifesta secretariat have started to scale back some of the plans that we have because we are cognisant that budgets are going to be tight … in terms of being able to host a spectacular event at the scale we wanted to,” Matthew said.

“Also, some of our regional counterparts who may be travelling to Carifesta may decide to scale back on the size of their delegation, given the very financial constraints that we are facing here in Antigua and Barbuda.

“And so the team, led by director Annette Aflak, [has] put a programme in place where they have scaled back not necessarily the activities, but the number of venues that we wanted to showcase in Antigua and Barbuda.”

Matthew explained why the decision was taken to reduce the number of venues.

“There is an inherent cost in setting up venues — stage, lights, sound and other infrastructure, and so they have started to now use a very fine razor and split every hair to ensure that we bring that budget down from what we felt was a manageable budget of $12.5 million, but we have now taken the decision to trim even further and to see how far we can go,” he said.

Despite suggestions to host a virtual festival, the culture minister said that that option was not on the table. He, however, disclosed that meetings leading up to the event will be held virtually instead.

“Some of the activities that we have, we have now taken them online. For example, between now and Carifesta next year August, we are supposed to host, I think, three or four Caricom meetings with individuals to come to observe our preparations.

“Each of those delegations travel with multiple persons and the host country as part of the agreement was to bear the cost of those persons coming to Antigua and Barbuda three or four times, but these things have now gone virtual.

“Yes, there are elements of Carifesta that can be done virtually, but it is an event that celebrates culture and performances in the real time. So, while we may include a virtual component where we would look to increase our broadcast ability that will also bring a lot of attention to Antigua and Barbuda as a tourism destination, the event itself is something that will have to be had in person to experience, to touch, to feel and just be there,” Matthew said.

Carifesta XV will be staged in the twin island from August 6 to 15 2021.

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