The 2014 Oistins Fish Festival is over and the organizers are already looking forward to 2015.
The curtain came down on the festival on Easter Monday, ending as it has over the last 34 years –– with hundreds taking activity to feverish levels late into last night at the Bay Garden and Berinda Cox Fishing Complex.
But in the days leading up to this foremost end-of-Lent Bajan celebration, during the merriment, and in the calm after, there were calls for changes to some activities and the way things are organized, and for there to be an expansion of the production committee to attract new blood.
Veteran committee chairman Herbert Yearwood agreed with the call for changes to the way activities were planned and that the membership base needed to be widened. But he told Barbados TODAY that Christ Church residents did not find membership of the committee attractive.
“Let me tell you, it’s extremely difficult to get new people. We have tried very hard to do that, but people when they come and they realize that nobody on the committee is paid . . . nobody wants to get involved. And that is a real problem all the years that the Fish Festival has been run by volunteers,” he said today in reviewing the weekend’s activity.
Yearwood’s almost permanent presence as the committee’s chairman might support his contention that willing volunteers are hard to find.
“I was chairman when it first started; then I went abroad in ’95. Dan Carter was deputy chairman then. When I went abroad he took it over. When I came back 14 years later he asked me to take it back,” Yearwood said.
MP John Boyce, whose Christ South Constituency encompasses the Oistins zone, signalled an intention to seek change in personnel at the committee level since last week, when he told people attending this year’s edition of the Sir Harold St John Memorial Lecture: “Open the doors of this planning committee to involve more young people, or maybe more not-so-young people in the planning of this festival.”
Three days later, at the festival’s opening, the minister stressed the need for continuity.
“We must battle on and make sure that this festival here in Christ Church is a festival that we can be proud of.”
Lady St John, wife of late Prime Minister Sir Harold St John, and founder of the festival, also added her voice to calls for prolonging the celebration.
“There is always room for growth. I encourage the authorities to keep building on that existing foundation that was made back in 1977, when I formed the Oistins Fish Festival committee and we started the festival,” she said at the opening ceremony Saturday.
While some vendors pitched tent for the weekend to join in with regular stallholders in a brisk trade of Bajan foods and drinks, others who sold different items were not too happy and echoed Boyce’s call for changes.
Harriet Bowen, whose stall offering decorative beads, chains and other hand-made jewelry was the first visited by Lady St John Saturday, told Barbados TODAY that for the three days, most people had just passed by and this year’s sales were lower than 2013’s.
“People probably had more money last year,” she said. Bowen is a member of the Women Entrepreneurs Of Barbados organization that has participated in the festival for years. She wants to see not only new blood in the festival organizing committee, but a radical change in activities to increase commerce for vendors.
The lone person selling fruits and vegetable also wants to see a reorganization of the festival weekend programme that should come with changes of people on the committee. This woman, who did not want her name mentioned, said business had been “so-so; very slow as it was last year”.
“The only difference this time is that there are more stalls,” she said on Monday. “The festival needs something more to increase the activity, to bring out more parents who will come with the children.”