Remarks by Sir William Allen Deputy to the Governor-General on the occasion of the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival Awards Ceremony at 11:00am on Monday 1st November, 2010, Ballroom at Government House on Mount Fitzwilliam, Nassau, Bahamas.
It is now fifty one years since this festival began in The Bahamas. It first started as a Music Festival back in 1959 and has grown and developed to include the other art forms: dance, drama, and arts & crafts. Today we have a National Festival that has truly become national in its scope, and includes all of the islands in our archipelago. In 2004, the festival was named after one of our great cultural icons, E. Clement Bethel who loved all forms of the Arts. Today we are living in an age of change so rapid it is staggering, and we face such enormous social challenges that at times leave us despairing of the human condition. But this I suspect is not entirely a new phenomenon. When William Butler Yeates wrote “Second Coming” nearly one hundred years ago and found that “…things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the World…” and that “the best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity…” I would say that we have much in common with his time.
While I dare not claim that the Arts have the answers to our social problems, I am confident that they play a major role in shaping our moral and social development. The Arts are a critically important part of the education of the whole person. At one level the Arts are character building tools that help to instil discipline; as anyone who is involved in the Arts can tell you, the determination and commitment required to truly succeed are somehow extraordinary.
The benefits of cultivating the various forms of Art in ones life and in society are numerous. The Arts enhance the quality of life of the individual and entire communities, that is they can enrich and elevate the level of our existence; the Arts foster careers and industries; they attract business and improve economies.
Too often, we in the developing world seem to underestimate the power, influence and relevance of the Arts. More developed societies are often inclined to cultivate and promote the Arts more aggressively. And here they sustain vibrant economic sectors. Too often, we seem not to appreciate what we have in our own country, or to pursue it to its full potential. Yet we seem able to place great relevance on the art forms or artistic expression of persons in other countries.
The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival is fully Bahamian and it is appropriate that more Bahamians appreciate the importance of the festival, and accordingly, participate to the fullest extent. We need to understand and appreciate that the festival can be an important aspect of our efforts to ensure that things do not fall apart and that the centre does hold.
The E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival aspires to the highest standards and its participants can hold their own with their counterparts anywhere in the world. It is a festival whose standards are high.
I congratulate all of the winners here today, and all those that could not be here. Grand Bahama stands apart. For several years Grand Bahama has been the largest participant in music. Grand Bahamians should be proud of this achievement. Those of you who are winners residing in others islands should also be proud of yourselves for being national winners in the E. Clement Bethel National Arts Festival. I would also like to congratulate the families, schools, and teachers and I know that they too are very proud of you.
I commend the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, and specifically the Department of Culture and the organizers of the festival for their hard work and dedication. But most of all I commend you, the participants, for your dedication to your art form. You deserve the recognition and praise. I encourage you to stay true to your art forms and by so doing bless this nation with artists of the highest order.
Once again, congratulations to all of you on your achievements.
God bless. Good afternoon.