Why the British Virgin Islands’ 70th Emancipation Festival should be on every party-goers must do list!
by Scarlett Steer Photography bY John F. Black & BVI Tourist Board & Film Commission

It’s soon time to celebrate! What worthier reason to rejoice in, than freedom, and what better place to do it than at home in the beautiful British Virgin Islands. This summer marks the 70th year of the territory’s Emancipation Festival, celebrating the abolition of slavery, 190 years ago.

This year is all about celebrating the Virgin Islands’ beautifully rich history, diverse culture and soulful identity. The territory’s Director of Tourism, Mr Clive McCoy, is calling on all communities to honour and applaud what a wonderful thing it is to be a Virgin Islander.

“Join us in celebrating the rich culture and history of the British Virgin Islands at the 70th Emancipation Festival,” says McCoy in warm welcome. “Experience vibrant music, captivating performances and indulge in mouthwatering local cuisine. Immerse yourself in the spirit of freedom and unity, as the BVI Emancipation Festival turns 70!”

In-keeping with tradition, festivities will kick off in mid-July with the Prince and Princess Show, followed by Mister and Miss Junior British Virgin Islands. Get yourself into the groove with the festival Warm-Up Tramp on July 26th – an ideal opportunity to dust-off those dancing shoes for the main event. The Festival village is set to open with a Gospel Fest– a night of stirring song and soulful rejoicing. Then begin the revelries in earnest.

August celebrations open with the beautiful and traditional Torch Light Procession and ‘Big People Party’ with music and dance, plus traditional concession stands selling an array of tasty food and drink. Always a highlight is the two-day Cultural Food Fair where you can expect to sample a sumptuous array of fresh local fare from some of the territory’s leading cooks and chefs. Ready to rumble? Hit the week’s musical highlights – everyone’s favourite Reggae night followed by an evening of saucy Soca, both boasting a legendary lineup of international and local talent. Then put your feet up and take in all the beauty and grace of the Miss British Virgin Islands’ Pageant – a glitteringly elegant event not to be missed by those who appreciate the more glamorous things in life.

Central to the celebrations is the parade – a day that draws young and old into streets filled with a kaleidoscope of colour, music and merriment. Many will rise before dawn to join the Rise and Shine Tramp, dancing through paint-splattered, music-filled streets before returning home to rest before the parade shows up and shows out. Sequin-spangled costumes, feathers and fishnet stockings, tantalising troupes, towering moko jumbies, festive floats and energetic rhythms – the BVI’s finest on dazzling display. Live music and laughter fill the air, mingling with the delicious aromas of freshly prepared local fare on the fire. Festivities flow from town, to the east for East End J’Ouvert, then on to picturesque Carrot Bay for the Fiesta Fisherman’s Tournament, donkey races, kayaking competitions, swimming, and the ever-popular Grease Pole.

Those who feel like a break in the party pace can soak up the beautifully balmy weather. Mid-to-late summer is a fabulous time to be in the BVI regardless of the festivities. The weather is perfect, the ocean is glassy, warm and clear and the beaches offer remarkable solitude. Summer days are spent under sapphire blue skies and the evenings are sweet, soft and full of starlight.

So come, dance, sing and rejoice! Immerse yourself in the spirit of freedom and unity, as the BVI Emancipation Festival turns 70!