The region’s premier cultural festival, CARIFESTA XV, which had been scheduled for August 2022 will not be hosted by Antigua and Barbuda as planned, as the country continues to battle a raging COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued by the CARIFESTA Office in Antigua on Wednesday, the government, in consultation with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, advised that “a difficult decision has been taken to officially withdraw from hosting CARIFESTA XV”.
“This decision comes in light of the continued challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, and its prolonged devastating impact not only on the economy of Antigua and Barbuda but also on the entire Caribbean Community,” it added.
Minister of Education, Sports, and the Creative Industries Daryll Matthew said the verdict followed a careful examination of the current epidemiological and economic circumstances.
“We are tremendously saddened by this development and reiterate our commitment to this very important regional festival,” he said.
Matthew was supported by CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett.
She said CARICOM was grateful to Prime Minister Gaston Browne and, by extension, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda, for the enthusiasm, commitment to regional integration through culture, and most importantly, the preparatory work over the last year and a half.
Dr. Barnett added that CARICOM was still anticipating that another opportunity would present itself for Antigua and Barbuda to host the renowned Caribbean festival at some point in the future.
The twin-island nation was originally to host the 15th edition of the festival in August last year, under the theme ‘One People. One Environment. Diverse Cultures’. However, that was postponed because of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.