Welcome Remarks by Ambassador Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary General CARICOM Secretariat at Launch of CARIFESTA XIV

It is a pleasure and an honour for me to participate in this regional launch of the Fourteenth Caribbean Festival of Arts and to bring you greetings on behalf of the Secretary-General, His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and the Caribbean Community. It is delightful to be here with all of you, to experience the warm hospitality of our gracious host – the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago – and to enjoy the wonderful ambiance that has been created here at the Hilton for the launch of CARIFESTA XIV.

I would like to specially welcome the Members of the Interim Festival Directorate, the regional advisory body to CARIFESTA, who have come from various Member States and regional organizations in the Community, to support the host country in planning CARIFESTA XIV and to be present for the launch.

I wish to express our heartfelt appreciation to Trinidad and Tobago for their willingness to host CARIFESTA for the fourth time, having previously hosted CARIFESTA V in 1992, CARIFESTA VI in 1995 and CARIFESTA IX in 2006. Your willingness to invest again in this shared regional mega event, demonstrates in a tangible way, Trinidad and Tobago’s unequivocal commitment to regional cooperation and a vibrant Community spirit.

The CARIFESTA launch is taking place at time when many in especially central and eastern Trinidad have suffered tremendous loss and dislocation from the recent flooding over the past few days. I wish to express my sincere regret for the suffering being experienced and hope that those affected will soon find relief through support from the government and concerned citizens. It underscores the need for our Member States to build resilience and social environmental responsibility as we deal more and more with the impact of climate change.

It is also fitting for us who are gathered to celebrate CARIFESTA and Caribbean culture this evening, to pay our profound respects to two distinguished sons of Trinidad and Tobago and of the Caribbean; two cultural icons whose recent passings we mourn.  And I speak of iconic calypsonian, Winston Mc Garland Bailey (The Mighty Shadow), who passed away earlier today and of Ken “Professor” Philmore, pan maestro, who died on the 30 of September. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their sterling contribution to advancing the culture of our region in the international arena. We celebrate their tremendous lives,  and their  enduring legacy of excellence, creativity, songs and recordings which will continue to be enjoyed by all of us and by generations to come.

CARIFESTA XIV, which will be held from 16 – 25 August 2019, under the theme “The Tangible and Intangible – Connect . Share . Invest,” is a highly valued regional cultural space where the Caribbean proclaims the vision, the values, the talent and the passion we have about ourselves and our culture, through the creative expressions of our many outstanding artists. In fact, it was a group of Caribbean writers and artists who as early as 1970, issued a strong call to Caribbean governments to establish a cultural festival where they could celebrate and showcase the arts; foster a vision of Caribbean unity and identity and facilitate cultural exchanges among themselves.   This gave birth to the Caribbean Festival of Arts that was first staged in Guyana in 1972 and which has been held 13 times in eight countries over the past four and a half decades.

Trinidad and Tobago is well known and celebrated for the abundance of talent of its people and many renowned artists who have blazed a trail of excellence and inspired a unique vision of our Caribbean civilization in the global imagination. This abundance of talent which is partially showcased here tonight, already gives us a taste of the quality and diversity of art forms that we can expect at CARIFESTA XIV from the host country, as well as from visiting contingents of artists from other Member States.

We are confident that with Trinidad and Tobago’s vast experience in hosting and promoting successful festivals and events and supported by the Interim Festival Directorate, the CARICOM Secretariat, Member States and Associate Members of the Caribbean Community, that we can look forward to an exciting spectacle of excellence and diversity in the arts at the region’s flagship, multidisciplinary festival in August next year. However, while we celebrate CARIFESTA as a major forum for cultural expression and cooperation in our Caribbean Community, we also recognize the critical role that CARIFESTA should play as catalyst for generating economic benefits for our artists and the cultural economy of the region.

A 2015 study by UNESCO, The International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) and Ernst and Young, titled “The Cultural Times” demonstrated that culture and the arts are indeed big business. The study reported that:

  • The Creative Economy employed nearly 29.5 million people globally
  • And generated $2.25 trillion in revenue (or 3% of world’s GDP in 2013)
  • That the creative economy employs more persons age 15-29 than any other sector
  • And the creative economy was greater than the GDPs of India, Russia and Canada

CARIFESTA helps to support the development of creative and cultural industries in the region by the incorporation over the past 3 CARIFESTAs, of a marketplace feature in the Festival. Through this initiative, the managers of international festivals and events are invited to CARIFESTA to see and interact with our artists, to create new opportunities for generating business, for performing, touring, training and other forms of professional development. We in CARICOM, see creative industry development as integral to the region’s strategy for sustainable economic growth and development.

I wish to commend the hard working team who constitute the Host Country Management Committee, led by Minister Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Ms. Susan Shurland, Deputy Permanent Secretary, for the tremendous work they have already undertaken to ensure that CARIFESTA will be a resounding success. The Sixteenth Meeting of the Interim Festival Directorate, which started yesterday, has continued their in-depth discussions on the plans for CARIFESTA XIV and the future management of the Festival. Improving the intellectual property value of CARIFESTA and expanding the marketing and promotion of the event regionally and internationally, are some of the critical innovations being put in place.

A special thanks also to the sponsors and many partners who have come on board early to support CARIFESTA. It is a major undertaking which relies on effective partnerships between the Government, artists, the private sector, the media and the regional partners. I encourage all Member States and Associate Members and third country friends of the region, to attend and participate to the fullest in the Festival.

Very soon, in just nine (9) months from now, Trinidad and Tobago will be a buzz with the presence of hundreds of visitors, and the performances of thousands of artists for CARIFESTA XIV. Trinidad and Tobago is the host, but the entire Caribbean is on show.

In closing let me assure you that I am looking forward with great anticipation to attending CARIFESTA XIV, to Dingolay in memory of Shadow and the Professor. It is a unique Community event that can only be described as one of the finest examples of our regional cooperation and Caribbean unity.

Thank you.