The Caribbean Culture Sector has received significant funding from the European Union with support from the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States, to help strengthen the sector following the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

The €3 million grant, which is provided under the ACP-EU 11th EDF Culture Programme, will help those working in the Caribbean Culture Sector who are seeking to recover from the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UNESCO, the CARICOM Secretariat and The University of the West Indies have joined forces to implement the €3m project titled ‘Creative Caribbean – An Ecosystem of “Play” for Growth and Development’.

The three-year project that will be implemented in 15 Caribbean countries aims to develop a robust creative economy in the region by strengthening the enabling environment and providing grant support for industry and training initiatives.

The Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs) targeted for grant support include music, fashion, festivals, film, animation and new media, visual and performing arts, among other areas of entertainment – a sector that provides millions in revenue and in which thousands of people find full-time and part-time work.

The project is expected to strengthen research and data collection on CCIs, to facilitate market access opportunities, to support the development of national artists registries, Cultural policies and Creative Industry Development Acts to incentivise the sector. It will also provide grants to creative and cultural practitioners to grow more globally competitive businesses and enhance their professional development.

Kingston JARumFestival dedicated to reggae (Photo : JTB)

Relying on artists

“It is an unquestionable fact that the impact of Covid-19 on the cultural and creative sectors was tremendously significant, yet CCIs play a notable role in the economy and recovery from the pandemic,” explained Saadia Sanchez-Vegas, director and representative of the UNESCO Cluster Office for the Caribbean during the project’s virtual launch. “The Creative Caribbean project seeks to shift the paradigm from “the struggling artist” to creating an enabling environment where creatives are incentivised to produce and thrive and become a key driver of sustainable development in the region.”

During the virtual launch, CARICOM Deputy Secretary-General Dr Armstrong Alexis explained that Creative Caribbean “brings together important elements of the cultural ecosystem to build on the deeply rooted Caribbean creative ecosystem of ‘play’.”

“This cultural pattern of ‘play’ has produced carnivals and festivals, which have been reproduced in over 70 diaspora spaces worldwide,” he explained. “‘Play’ is the thread that connects the dynamic musical inventiveness of Reggae and Dancehall, Calypso and Soca, Punta, Bouyon, Compa, Salsa and Denery Segment, and the list goes on”.

Artists and cultural entrepreneurs from the following countries are eligible to apply for grant support under this landmark project: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago.

Festivals and carnivals to anchor culture

Festivals as well as carnivals are the most likely events to benefit from the launch of this project as they are catalysts of the creative sector and a strong asset for tourism in the region.

“Festivals, mounted in our context in a wide variety of creative disciplines, generate streams of direct income from sponsorship, ticket and merchandise sales, but also several secondary revenue streams through expenditure on airlines tickets, hotel accommodation, car rentals, as well as hair, make up and fashion services for the patrons; catering, media and promotion, technical support for sound, stage, lights and festival management; street vendors and the list goes on,” added Alexis.

“National festivals and the region’s premier, mega Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) stand to benefit from capacity building activities to be implemented through this project. The marketplace component of CARIFESTA which facilitates business interactions between Caribbean artists and international buyers and investors, festival and venue managers, is an area to be targeted for expansion when the event returns.”.

Governments of the Caribbean Community increasingly acknowledge the value and contribution of the cultural and creative industries to the development of economies in the region. In 2018, a US$2.6 million Creative and Cultural Industries Innovation Fund was already set by the Caribbean Development Bank.

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