CASTRIES, St Lucia -- The ninth Montserrat Calabash Festival was recently staged and, following up on the success of the 2014 event, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission’s Tourism Desk recommends the Montserrat Calabash Festival as a model to be replicated in other OECS member states.
Whilst there are many festivals in other member states throughout the OECS, such as jazz and other music festivals what is distinctly different about the Montserrat Calabash festival is the high level of local participation and attendant direct benefits derived from local residents from this event.
Chief organiser of the Montserrat Calabash Festival, Florence Griffith, said the significant component of signage, facilitated by the OECS Commission’s Tourism Desk has boosted the level of interest and support for the event. Griffith added that the attractively designed signage even serves as backdrops for photos by locals and visitors during and following the Montserrat Calabash Festival.
This support by the OECS Commission resulted from Montserrat’s participation in a national consultation on community-based tourism organised by the Commission in July 2013 to assist member states in developing niche tourism products.
Following the workshop, the OECS Commission’s Tourism Desk worked closely with the Montserrat Hospitality Association to provide funding support through the 10th EDF Economic Integration and Trade of the OECS Region project, for assisting the marketing of the Montserrat Calabash Festival.
The Montserrat Calabash Festival emerged out of the need to redevelop the island in the aftermath of destruction caused by severe volcanic activity. It was designed to promote the local art and craft industry by producing various products made from and/or incorporating the calabash fruit. A central element of the festival is the showcasing of the products derived from the calabash fruit as a cottage industry.
The calabash has historically had economic and socio-cultural significance in the Montserrat community. A wide variety of products, which are artistically carved and decorated for diverse use are produced from the calabash including: hand bags, hanging baskets, decorative art objects, musical instruments, key rings, refrigerator magnets, lamp shades, bowls, jewellery.
The calabash is also viewed as a symbol of strength, versatility and resilience of the people of Montserrat.
The Montserrat Calabash festival which takes place in July attracts visitors to the island as a way of turning around what is traditional known as a slow summer period for tourism.