"St. Lucia should not take bread out of Dominica's mouth"
Dominicans react to St. Lucia's plans to compete with the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF)
To St. Lucian national, Daniel Laforce, the statement by their Tourism Minister, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, alluding to the country's future plans to host an event during their Creole heritage month —October— which he says could possibly surpass Dominica's World Creole Music Festival (WCMF), is "morally wrong."
"We preach unity and being our neighbour's keepers so the remark by Dr. Hilaire is extremely disloyal. He should apologize for this faux pas!", Laforce said.
Recently, Dr. Hilaire recently spoke to the press in St. Lucia and responded to concerns about the effect on St. Lucia's Creole heritage activities which coincides with Dominica's WCMF. He posited, that while he is aware that during this period St. Lucian patrons of the WCMF head there, Dr. Hilaire remained optimistic about the potential of St. Lucia launching their "biggest national festival."
"But I believe Creole Heritage Month can become even bigger and certainly the Jounen Kwéyòl celebration, which is the last weekend (in October) can become our biggest celebration in St. Lucia," Dr. Hilaire said.
He continued, "but like you said, it coincides with Dominica Music Festival, and for somebody like me, who for the last few years attended every Dominica Music Festival it's a real difficult situation to be in because we usually go to Dominica for their Creole festival and we have Jounen Kwéyòl in St. Lucia and I have the responsibilities in that regard."
Dr. Hilaire holds the view that the time has come to consider ways in which the country can grow its creole festival in 2023 to outdo its Dominican counterparts through strategic discussions.
"I believe we have the skills, we have the capacity to be even bigger than Dominica. You just have to look at Dominica's lineup for Creole Festival this year and you can see that they've come all out," he said. "I know some of the artists that will be performing and I know what it takes to get them to come to perform. So we now need to sit down and strategize how we are going to maneuver in this regard."
The Tourism Minister did not rule out the possibility of a joint marketing approach so that all the islands involved can enjoy mutual benefits but insisted that there's competition everywhere and "we can take advantage of that."
Voice of the People
Following his pronouncement, The Sun sought feedback from the public. Here are some of the responses.
Donna Reynold: "St Lucia has a long way to go to compete with Dominica for our WCMF. They already have an amazing Jazz festival which I believe they should seek to improve. Creole Festival. Dominica Creole music festival is a brand, it is not just the three days of foreign bands so it will take St Lucia years to create that energy, to get to where Dominica is as far as our WCMF."
Andy Joseph: "I have always been fearful that another country will try to compete with us for what is rightfully ours. They have a bigger budget when it comes to marketing and promoting their events so if the powers that be don't buck up we could lose WCMF like everything else."
Brent Phillip: "Dominica celebrates carnival the same time as Trinidad and other places, yet it's not a problem because it doesn't take away from ours. If the Minister believes it's in his country's best interest to host an event similar to WCMF then why not. Each country must find its niche. St. Lucia does not owe us anything. If there is competition, that will force the organizers in Dominica to up their game then so be it. In the end people will base their decision based on the value they perceive from each event."
St. Lucian "For once, I side with the Minister's strategic thoughts. Our creole festival is ours and in that sense, charity begins at home. Both St. Lucia and Dominica can individually benefit greatly. The world knows the Dominica Creole Festival. It is our time now to show the world what we have, who we are as a people, and where we came from. If this is planned and executed properly we can make that dent. Another thought is both countries can collaborate and make it into a single product but more innovative thinking would have to emerge considering the air and sea space."
Sammy George: "I think that is an unjustified statement made by the Minister of Culture in St. Lucia. The World Creole Festival is unique to Dominica and there should be no comparison. But I hope this lights some fire under the DFC so they can plan better because others are watching and WCMF can easily be replaced."
Mandy LaRocque: "No wonder the Caribbean cannot move forward. As our sister island, St. Lucia should not compete against us. Dominica is ahead by many years and while we should be proud that others want to copy what we took years to build, the onus is on us to protect ours."
Eric Vidal: "We lost Ross, we lost a bank and so many other things which were unique to us so I don't think this administration is too worried about losing WCMF. St. Lucia could easily outdo Dominica if they decide to have a festival at the same time as Dominica. St Lucia has an international airport that affords people from anywhere in the world direct flight, greater accommodations, and a larger population. So we can't be mad that they want better for themselves."
WCMF Lover: "I believe St. Lucia should not seek to take bread out of Dominica's mouth. Focus on other events in their country and make it bigger. And that's why small islands will get nowhere. Instead of supporting each other in what we do, we prefer to compete with each other creating division and resentment. St. Lucia should leave our festival alone. Concentrate on their Jazz event that we in Dominica also support. Politicians should stop trying to divide."