The island of St Lucia is readying itself for a summer of fun following the launch of its maiden SOLEIL Summer Festival: a sizzling series of six different types of festivals held from May to October.
With such an incredible heritage for artistic talent, St Lucia’s latest initiative is designed to leave lasting socioeconomic and cultural benefits for its people, whilst firmly placing the island in the spotlight as a haven for unique musical events, carnivals and gastronomic celebrations of St Lucian food and drink.
Kreol Magazine was delighted to be at the UK launch of the festival at The Ivy Club in London on 7th February, which featured a passionate speech from the island’s Minister of Tourism, Hon. Dominic Fedee. St Lucia’s new High Commissioner to London, Guy Mayers was also in attendance as the community came out in force to warmly welcome this ambitious initiative.
What will SOLEIL Summer Festival 2017 consist of?
With a 25-year history of hosting its highly popular Jazz and Arts festivals, both of these events will act as bookends to SOLEIL, with four new festivals and carnivals sandwiched in between.
The full line-up for SOLEIL is:
1. Saint Lucia Jazz Festival (12-14th May)
Arguably one of the biggest celebrations of Saint Lucian and Caribbean jazz, the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival culminates in a star-studded send-off at the Pigeon Island National Landmark on the final day, featuring Grammy-nominated Vanessa Williams and Rachell Ferrell.
2. Roots & Soul Festival (16-18th June)
Designed to shine a light on the latest in reggae, Afropunk, R&B and hip-hop, the Roots & Soul Festival is sure to get those hips moving. It also marks the official opening of the month-long Saint Lucia Carnival.
3. Saint Lucia Carnival (mid-June to mid-July)
One of the most spectacular displays of Saint Lucian culture, locals and tourists alike flock to the thumping beats and intoxicating atmosphere of the Saint Lucia Carnival while basking in the warm Caribbean sun.
4. Saint Lucia Food & Run Festival (24-27th August)
The perfect time to visit the island if you’re a fanatical foodie, this culinary festival – the brainchild of chefs Doran Payne and Nina Compton – features professional demonstrations, tastings of Saint Lucian rum and wine and unforgettable dining experiences.
5. Country & Blues Festival (15-17th September)
Staying true to St Lucia’s folk traditions, the new Country & Blue Festival will showcase the richness and modernity of these genres of music that express the raw emotion, hopes and dreams of real island people.
6. Arts & Heritage Festival (October)
SOLEIL closes its doors following the island’s month-long Arts & Heritage Festival, celebrating its vibrant ethnic and artistic heritage with everything from street parties and seminars to art exhibitions.
Cementing St Lucia as a cultural hub in the Caribbean
Dominic Fedee, St Lucia’s Minister of Tourism says the island is pulling out all the stops to leverage all of its cultural assets, fully exhibiting its cultural wealth.
“There’s just about 165,000 of us [on the island] and we are really, really proud of our country.
“We look forward to every opportunity possible to show off the way we dance, the way we sing and the way we move.”
SOLEIL is one of many exciting plans the Saint Lucian government has in mind to continue to enchant visitors to the island.
“The idea is when you come to Saint Lucia you can stay all summer long with the extensive events calendar and no shortage of amazing places and sites to visit,” said Prime Minister, Hon. Allen Chastanet at SOLEIL’s official launch in St Lucia (2nd February) at the Bay Gardens Hotel.
There is no doubt that, as a tourist hub, St Lucia is truly flourishing at present. British tourists make up a quarter of all its visitors, with 85,000 flocking annually to the island. There are more exciting plans afoot to improve St Lucian infrastructure to reach out to more people across the world about the island’s beauty and deliver an unforgettable holiday destination.
“We are changing our tourist board, which is going to be transformed into a tourism authority. This will mean better streamlining of our marketing and a more professionally run organisation that enables us to create better exposure and demand for the destination,” added Fedee.
“We have an additional 700 rooms that are likely to come on stream this year; from chic boutique to all-inclusive resorts, we’ve got some great announcements [to come].
“In the next five years we are poised to have an additional 2,500 rooms to add to our current room capacity which is somewhere in the region of 3,500.
“We are expanding our airport facility, we’re improving our highways, but most importantly we’re focusing on product development; harnessing the sights and attractions and better define and articulate to you how we have lived and who we have become.
“It’s all happening in Saint Lucia.”