Feature Address at the Launch of the 2018 Season of Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition

In its original incarnation, this programme that was called the Better Village Programme and the Prime Minister we always ask me about Better Village never Best Village, this programme focused on infrastructure, health and skills training.  This then evolved into the Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition, to focus support for indigenous theatre and the arts as an indispensable part of our nation’s history.  We all know how this came about, we all know about Dr. Eric Williams, our first Prime Minister, his tour of the villages and his pride in what he saw as the indigenous talent and creativity of the villages and his wish that villages can enter into friendly rivalry with each other and then proclaim who was the Better Village, but in our case now the Best Village.

Some notable performers have had their grounding in Best Village Programme including Singing Sandra in Calypso; Leroy Birch ‘Big B’ in Extempo; Machel Montano, internationally renowned soca artiste; and Peter London, former principal dancer with the Martha Graham Dance Company in New York now an Associate Professor of Dance of the New World School of the Arts in Miami and many, many others would have found their grounding and would have had their start in the best village programme. So undeniably, the potential of best village is boundless and its ability to develop talent of our country is limitless.

Over the years this Best Village programme which is the longest running programme in Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts in any of its form and I dare say the longest running programme in the country, has become more than just a competition between villages, it has grown into a major cultural event that has gained nationwide popularity and I dare say, nationwide respect. The original vision of the programme has been sustained by the passion and talents of the participants and the various communities; it is a programme that was of the village, by the village, for the village. Anyone who encounters the best village fraternity for the first time have the same reaction. They are usually taken aback by the passion. So when I said passion, I had to smile because there isn’t a best village event that does not abound with passion and you see it coming out of the young people, those who are more experience in the programme, you see that passion, that love for the best village programme and sometimes that translates into something that persons who does not understand it into aggression. But it is not aggression, it because they feel it deep inside that the passion comes out. I want to salute all of the best village people who have been around and who have continue to show passion for this programme.

Best village is not a government thing. This programme has existed regardless of which government comes in and which government comes out. It is bigger that government. This programme is the people’s programme and that is why it is so important to us. So we must own it and we must love it because it is inherently, Trinidad and Tobago. I was so happy to see Tobago joined us in the 2017 literation and I so look forward to them joining us in 2018 as well. It is inherently Trinidad and Tobago so that we must love it and own it and must support it.

In 2017 we introduced the Folk Theatre Season at the end of the competition as part of the National Patriotism Month. I will tell you people who came to that event and left in awe at what best village can produce and that is why I will say that undeniably best village has gained the respect of Trinidad and Tobago and we must continue to keep it so.

Through the years, all the individual and groups who have carried this competition and who have devoted, blood, sweat and tears to this competition, I want to say a personal thank you. Because what this has done, is sustained this programme through good times and bad times and this programme has stood the test of time. I want us to challenge ourselves as we head into 2018 to do more and to be more.

I want you to acknowledge in times of less, we have tried at the Ministry to do a little bit more where it counts because we acknowledge the importance of this programme. In times where we are challenged, where we have societal, we have economic challenges, this programme becomes even more important because through the culture, through the arts is how we ground ourselves, how we express life’s experiences. At the end of it, this is what we can hold on to, to say, we are expressing ourselves, we are enjoying ourselves and it makes a big difference in how we view our circumstances.

I want to encourage you to use your influence, use your social circles, family and friends to spread what this competition is about and encourage people to come in to the programme. Of course, like anything else, this programme will have its problems but if we really analyze it, I truly believe that there are more good than bad inside this programme and therefore we have to choose to celebrate the good as even as we work on ironing out all the kinks that would have been developed over the years and work out the challenges that will face us going forward.

Own this programme, share it! Last year we will have invested in a strong social media drive for best village and I want to thank all those who cooperated in making the videos as we sent it out. As we enter 2018, there is a (hashtag) #mybestvillage and we encourage you to post about your experience.  We have so many young people involve in best village and we want to see that same response on social media because it is young people in best village, it is young people by and large on social media, so we want to see the same presence in the young people in best village, we want to see that translated into social media.

I want to encourage you, the young, the not so young like myself who are involve in social media, give us the hashtag and make this a trending topic and spread the good news of best village because if we don’t spread it, if we don’t love it, if we don’t share it, tell me who will. We have to all do our part and at the Ministry will do our best to support this programme and ensure that it lives on because we know the importance of this to our country, to our heritage and to the young people who are coming up, who need to be grounded in the true culture of Trinidad and Tobago.

We are set to officially launch the 2018 Prime Minister’s Best Village Trophy Competition and I want to say thank you again to all our competitors in 2017 and all the supporters and all that are involved in the best village industry. I look forward to 2018, I look forward to the challenges it may bring and what I look forward to most, is the way as usual we will rise above those challenges and 2018 Prime Minister’s Trophy Competition will live on with great success.

God bless you and I look forward to a wonderful season.