‘Festival suffers from underfunding’ - Festival Committee
The Virgin Islands Festivals and Fairs Committee (VIFFC) said they have been operating on a budget of under one million dollars to stage the various cultural events and festivities across the territory this year.
Speaking at a press conference earlier today, the Vice-Chairman of the committee Birch Lettsome noted the committee received a $500,000 subvention from the government.
He said the VIFFC have raised some sponsorship but the money falls very short of the budget required for a typical festival celebration.
“It is very difficult for me to speak about this year without giving you a backdrop. The reality of it is I think festivals in the BVI, especially as we know it; a minimum of $1.5 to $2 million is required to pull off the events as we all know them. The pageants, the village, coney island. Everything you could possibly think of, $1.5 to $2 million would be the ideal budget. We were able to raise some sponsorship and that kind of stuff. So, we will be looking in an area of just under one million,” Lettsome said.
Chairman of the VIFFC, Dirk Walters, added the subvention is a budget that must be used for all celebrations.
“We are not talking only about Road Town Festival. We are talking East End, Carrot Bay, and Virgin Gorda Easter Festival as well and including Gospel Fest which the Heritage committee manages, including heritage month. It’s not just gospel fest. I think a lot of persons don’t have a full understanding but there is a whole slate of events which is in August,” Walters said.
Meanwhile, Head of the Entertainment Committee Stuart Donovan said the key takeaway from the situation is that festival celebrations are being underfunded.
“The key point here is that all these activities for festival are governed under the same subvention. So, we need to look at what it is, and I will go on record challenging the government because there is a lot of talk about festival overrun but the festival does not suffer from overrun. Festival suffers from underfunding,” Donovan said.
Additionally, Walters noted that plans for this year’s emancipation festivities have been in the works for a long time and he is excited about what has been planned, despite receiving the green light later than expected.
“We have been looking forward to this for a long time. For many months we have been planning, and waiting on the go-ahead. Right now, it is just the execution; making sure all the sub-committee get the support they want. All the volunteers, bear in mind everyone involved in this are all volunteers, including those of us on the executive committee, and those on the subcommittee, it is a lot of work. It is a lot of physical work. Everyone is on high gear, and we are going to try and deliver the best festival in years, regardless of the constraints,” the chairman said.
When asked about outstanding debts to vendors, Walters noted he is not aware of any but if there are any debts, they must be brought to his attention.
“I am personally not aware of any vendors that are owed. I am only involved in this, myself and the vice-chair and treasurer since our first task was the Virgin Gorda Easter Festival. As far as I know, we have paid off our bills and all the debts are paid. If there is anything outstanding, that has to be brought to our attention, but any vendors owed previously, I can’t speak to because I know I didn’t sign anything with anyone or any contract so I can only speak to what I know about,” Walters said.