By Carlena Knight
Festivals Minister Daryll Matthew has shared his pleasure with the recently concluded Independence celebrations.
The 39th anniversary celebrations were forced to be scaled down due to the Covid-19 pandemic which led to a number of events, like the Youth Rally, Food Fair and School’s Panorama being cancelled, while the Ceremonial Parade and Awards Ceremony was held late afternoon.
Despite the stressful period Matthew gave his approval on the execution of all the events.
“The Department of Culture put on the dance competition which was amazingly well executed. We had the church service. We had the Virtual Calypso competition which was big hit around Antigua and Barbuda.
“We had the Motion Picture Association put on the Film Festival over the last few days. The Ceremonial Parade, which took place on Sunday – which I think was quite exciting as we changed the format of that event to have it in the evening this year – and I do believe that it was well received by the public, but certainly for me the highlight for this Independence was at the start of the Ceremonial Parade when LIAT flew over,” Matthew explained.
“And then, of course, the drive through food fair was a great display by our people to ensure that the tradition that we have of having our local foods on display for sale and for consumption would not go down with Covid.
“Just following the comments on social media, you could see that the people had a fantastic time enjoying the local food all over Antigua and Barbuda,” he added.
Matthew, while speaking on state media, shared that it was quite challenging to plan ahead for the various events because of the unpredictability of the pandemic.
“It is a situation that changes daily, so four, five weeks ago, our Covid numbers were down to just about zero. It looked as if we were able to control the spread of it.
“We were keeping our fingers crossed that perhaps we could go bigger with some of our activities and then we had a mini explosion of cases and we had to scale back once again.
“The constant scenario planning just makes it a challenge all around but the staff of the Festivals Office and the Festivals Commission were really put to the test, and I think they came through with flying colours,” Matthew shared.
“We received tremendous support from Cabinet because, with these activities there is a cost. To put on a virtual calypso competition there’s a cost associated with that.
“You would recognise that all of the winners got their prize monies on stage much like we did for the virtual Soca Monarch, but these resources must come from somewhere and it is a difficult time now to pull resources.
“We have a lot of other obligations but the Cabinet, Prime Minister and the government itself were determined not to let our stakeholders be forgotten, and to ensure that, despite a difficult season where some of them just were able to not generate any revenue because the entertainment sector has been severely constrained, they were at least able to receive some financial support for their craft.”
Matthew shared that plans are underway for the observation of VC Bird Day in December. Meanwhile, a virtual edition of the One Nation Concert, which usually takes place in January, could possibly be staged if the pandemic continues, Matthew added.