Organizers of the Oistins Fish Festival say the event has been in limbo for much too long, not having been designated as a national festival.
And after 40 years as a cultural and entertainment showcase for tens of thousands of locals and visitors, the organizers today revealed plans to approach Government to change the designation.
Dan Carter, the deputy chairman of the organizing committee, said if the event were seen as a national festival it would qualify for funding from Government to improve the efficiency of the operation.
“We have always hoped that we would formally approach Government for some assistance, ‘cause it is really needed . . . especially we need a secretariat to help us. Sometimes about three or four months before the festival there is a lot of work, a lot of clerical work, and therefore, we should need some assistance,” Carter said at the launch of the FLOW Oistins Fish Festival in Bay Gardens, Christ Church. “So we are hoping to put a plan to Government in that regard,” he added.
Chairman Herbie Yearwood noted that while the festival is listed on the calendar of events promoted across the world by the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, there was still no major sponsorship from the state.
He explained that he and Carter did all the secretarial work from “an old place there that belongs to the fishermen”.
“It is time that something is done in getting some assistance in that area. We have no assistance at all,” Yearwood stressed.
However, Alex McDonald, the festival’s fund and partner relations coordinator, made it clear the organizers did not want to depend on Government for the survival of the event.
McDonald said while the private sector had been supportive, designation as a national event would be helpful.
“The truth is that the private sector this year has come forward and really answered the call. One of the things that we are moving to is not being dependent on Government to run the festival . . . . It has not been dependent on Government for 40 years to run the festival. But what we are hoping for is that the designation be given so that you would be able to access some of the resources in terms of not having to pay for some of the infrastructural things,” he said.
“The police over the years have been very good with us as far as I know. Generally what happens is that everybody works off of goodwill, which is what we would want to keep. The designation gives the festival some authority to make certain decisions around the look and feel and also how it is managed for that weekend,” McDonald added.
The business leader also warned that the present situation where Carter and Yearwood put themselves in debt every year to ensure the festival comes off was not sustainable.
“I could not leave [without] paying personal acknowledgement to the work that Herbie Yearwood and Dr Dan Carter do every year and have done for 40 years to make sure that this nationally-acknowledged festival comes off . . . and I think it is sad thing that the contribution they have made to the community has not been formally recognized . . . . It is a labour of love, they don’t get anything for it. As a matter of fact, what they have gotten is debt; and that is not something that is a sustainable model moving a festival forward,” he cautioned, while hailing FLOW for more than doubling its sponsorship support this year, from $10,000 to $25,000.