The arts have not escaped the economic downturn with Cayfest, Cayman’s annual celebration of the arts, suffering from cutbacks this year. The Journal speaks with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation’s artistic director, Henry Muttoo, and finds out that a collective effort by the community will help keep this vital arts festival alive for years to come.
Cayfest was formed back in 1995 by the Cayman National Cultural Foundation at the behest of Premier McKeeva Bush (then Minister for Community Development, Sports, Women’s and Youth Affairs and Culture).
At the time, Dave Martins was the CNCF chairman and Henry Muttoo was the programmes director.
“Initially Mr. Bush was looking to have us produce a youth arts festival,” Henry Muttoo (now the artistic director of CNCF) explains, “but at the time the arts were not a fixed feature in the curriculum in schools, so we felt that just focusing on youth would be a challenge. Thus we opened up the festival to the entire community, encouraging anyone who was part of Cayman’s performing and visual arts scene to participate.”
Cayfest reaches out to the community via theatre, music, artwork and dance, as well as the literary and culinary arts and each year the CNCF (who orchestrate the event) puts out a call to the community for those in the arts to jump on board and become involved.
This year, due to budgeting constraints, Muttoo says that it has never been more important for the art world to come together and support Cayfest with one voice.
“Although historically the CNCF has been the main organiser of the event, we’d love to have representation by all the arts and cultural entities on island on board, such as the National Gallery, the National Museum and the National Archives,” he states. “As a result of cutbacks we are having to scale back on Cayfest events so community input on a national scale has never been more vital.”
Muttoo says that moves have already begun to integrate all arts organisations into this national event, and the heads of the main organisations have met to discuss future partnerships, if not for Cayfest 2011 but for future events to come.
This year the popular Rundown performance will still take place, in which performers manage to tread a fine line making gentle fun of political and other events that have taken place during the year while at the same time ensuring that no-one is offended by the jokes. Muttoo is coordinating the script this year, along with cast members who include Leroy Holness, Morgan DaCosta, Rita Estevanovich and Quincy Brown.
A special dance performance, titled Alchemy, is being produced by dance instructor Soraya, the Cayman Islands Folk Singers will also be entertaining event goers and a photography exhibition, to be held at the old library building in George Town, will also take place.
“We are excited about the photography competition as it will be a curated show that we intend to take to all the districts as well as the sister islands to ensure that everyone gets the chance to see the artwork for themselves,” Muttoo explains.
Sadly, the popular catboat launch has had to be shelved this year due to financial constraints.
“It becomes harder each year to organise Cayfest with our small number of staff,” Muttoo says. “Although we have some fantastic volunteers who are happy to participate in one-off events, it is hard for us to get volunteers who can make the commitment on a regular basis. For example, when someone volunteers on a stage production like Rundown, it is a 12-week, three nights a week commitment, or thereabouts.”
A collaboration, therefore, among all the major organisations would, he believes, ensure that Cayman’s national festival would reach its full potential and be an arts showcase for the entire community.