By Lindsey Turnbull
The much-loved Cayman Arts Festival was in danger of not happening at all this year, thanks to what organiser, Executive Director Marius Gaina, said was a very difficult year last year with Covid-19 restrictions threatening to prevent any musical acts appearing at the festival and little money in the pot to make it happen.
Instead, the music-loving Cayman community has been able to enjoy some fantastic entertainment, with a guitar recital from Nathan Herrera, who plays the Spanish and flamenco guitar with passion, a fun-filled Beatlemania concert courtesy of the Cayman Youth Choir held at the Westin Hotel Ballroom, a piano recital by the musically-gifted Glen Inanga and a flamboyant opera Broadway-style with Georgina Gatto. In addition, a really special Music at the Library took place at the old George Town Public Library, dedicated to the life of Leila Ross-Shier, who, by coincidence, had just been named as a new National Hero, Ms Leila having penned Cayman’s National Song. The event, the first to start the 2021 Cayman Arts Festival, presented songs, poems and readings from Ms Leila’s works. In addition, the documentary ‘I Cannot Thee Forget’, a story of her life, was screened as part of the event.
“It was a very emotional event, with Ms Leila’s family and friends in attendance,” Mr Gaina said. “If possible, we would like to recreate it to take it to all the districts for everyone to enjoy.”
Last-minute programme of events
Cayman Arts Festival runs a variety of events and programmes throughout the year, including their Music at the Library monthly performances as well as classes for students, however their full festival, scheduled for February 2021, was in serious danger of not happening.
“Really, we have made an arts festival that has been patched together,” Mr Gaina said. “If you had asked me a month or so ago whether we would be holding the festival this year I would have said no. We were unable to get international musicians to come here and we had very little money. At the last minute, we had some funds given to us by sponsors and found some local artists who were able to perform. We had to make some venue changes but, in the end, I think we have been able to produce a very nice event.”
Not only have the organisers managed to bring some wonderfully uplifting musical performances to the island, they have also managed to incorporate some new events to the programme. This year for the first-time high school students from Cayman Prep and High School were able to put on plays for kindergarten students at the old George Town Library.
“The students produced a series of short plays on the subject of good manners for the young children,” Mr Gaina advised. “Pre-schoolers and kindergarten children were invited and really enjoyed the performances. I had a lot of parents telling me their children could not stop talking about the plays and the music they had enjoyed at the festival.”
Mr Gaina said this aspect of the festival touched on the trend of education that the organisers are keen to promote further in the years to come, which had become even more visible at this year’s event.
Another new aspect to the programme has been the literary arts programme, during which event local authors have been invited to come and chat about their writing.
“We invite them to come and talk about their research, what inspired them and how they got their books published,” Mr Gaina said. “For this year’s event we invited Graham Morse who spoke about his latest book Fatal Fix, from the first idea for the book all the way to it being published. It was a really well represented event with about 50 people, which was an amazing response.”
Mr Gaina said he anticipated the Cayman Arts Festival would be a success in 2021 with people having such limited access to first-class musical events all around the world and people therefore taking advantage of this unique offering here in the Cayman Islands, but equally he was worried that they might have been reticent to come out and enjoy gatherings of this nature. The end result was, however, an uplifting and varied programme that event-goers in Cayman felt very lucky to have been able to experience, given the current circumstances elsewhere in the world.
“We have even sold enough tickets which means we should be able to survive another year,” Mr Gaina confirmed.
Walkers, Butterfield and RBC Wealth Management Dominion Services were the main sponsors, along with a variety of further sponsors who also stepped up to the plate to make the festival happen.