Montserrat to Celebrate Calabash Festival and 25th Anniversary of Soufriere Hills Volcano

Montserrat began a week of activities to celebrate the annual Calabash Festival as well as to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Soufriere Hills volcanic eruptions.

Although the current COVID-19 pandemic delayed the planning and caused a few scheduled events (such as the volcano conference) to be cancelled, measures have been put in place for remaining activities to proceed, a release from the Montserrat Arts Council read.

Premier Joseph Farrell said in a statement to honor the week that “July 1995 has been etched in the record books of our history as a turning point, with far-reaching socio-economic impacts on the peoples of our beloved country.

“Financial assistance, supporting a voluntary evacuation scheme which provided for mass migration of our people to neighboring islands and the United Kingdom; resulting in our population dwindling from 10,600, pre-volcano to 3,338 in 1997. Following on from those dark years, we have steadily grown to 4,600 as of 2018;
“The loss of the more fertile agricultural land along the eastern corridor, Riley’s to Gages, deprived farmers and their families of a livelihood, forcing them to become strangers in their homeland.
“We cannot forget the gross impact on our ports of entry—W. H. Bramble Airport in the East was decimated and Port Plymouth became inaccessible;
“The hub of government and private sector activity, our Capital Plymouth, was evacuated;
“The destruction of two-thirds of our beautiful island from Perches in the east to St. Patrick’s in the south: village after village lying waste with but a few houses doted in the landscape;
“Many of us had to flee our homes during the phased relocation northwards to Salem and beyond with an overnight bag; communal living in public spaces, such as schools, churches and shelters became our way of living, though temporary.
“But in a spirit of resilience we have survived, we have endured and we have overcome. If you search for the meaning of the word ‘resilience’, you would find Montserratians! Montserrat and Montserratians are the epitome of resilience. It is now engrained in our national psyche. And so we continue to rise and elevate as a people.”

The Calabash Festival opened Sunday with a service at the St. John’s Anglican Church and will end next Sunday 19th July with the Virtual Calabash Concert. Running in tandem with the cultural events will be the 25th anniversary activities organized by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory.
There will be a daily 25 years of the volcano quizzes on the ZJB Breakfast Show with Basil Chambers. A series of videos highlighting the island’s story of life with a volcano will be streamed online throughout the week. Other scheduled activities include, the launch of the Mountain Aglow Exhibition website, boat tours and food fair. This Wednesday has been made a public holiday to allow all to honour the lives lost and the island’s journey since 1995.

The activities are being made possible through joint planning and production efforts by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Governor’s Office, Office of the Premier, Montserrat Arts Council, Calabash Festival Committee, ZJB Radio, Montserrat Tourism Department and the Government Information Unit.

View the programme here —-> 25th Anniversary of SHV – Commemorative Events – Final Draft