Winston Bramble, festival director of the National Junior Arts Festival (SanFest), believes local schools lack sufficient arts programmes. SanFest, which is hosted and organised by the San Fernando Arts Council, celebrates its 42nd anniversary this year as the only local festival, according to Bramble, comprised of competitions in visual, performing and literary arts. SanFest prelims kicked off on Tuesday with primary and secondary school students being judged in various dramatised speech and music categories. The festival “picks up the slack,” said Bramble, and offers students much needed exposure to the arts. Notables who’ve passed through SanFest’s winning ranks include pannist Liam Teague, soca star Machel Montano and singer Megan Walrond.
In a few years the name Rhesa Chan may be added to that list. On Wednesday, 13-year-old Chan of Holy Faith Convent, Couva qualified for the finals in the monologue category. She’s been participating in SanFest since age nine. Chan said the festival allows her to learn in ways she’s not able to at school. “Creative arts is where I get to express my true feelings and how I feel about society and everything. Some people are not academically inclined but they can still showcase their talent through drama,” she said. Chan’s monologue, Aids, written by her mother, Julie Chan taught her how gravely the disease affects youth and the importance of using protection, Rhesa said.
Winnifred Asson, who teaches theatre and English at the Marabella South Secondary School has been training students for the festival for more than a decade. Asson said arts is integral to education, but believes that a lack of facilities and manpower has hampered programmes in local schools. She added, however, that her school, has been able to overcome a history of being labeled “at-risk” through enhancing the arts programme. “Its important to the children not only for their physical development, but their mental development. Marabella South was considered one of the at-risk schools but we have seen through drama that the children have developed strong confidence and their self-esteem has sky-rocketed,” she said.
Two years ago Marabella South Secondary moved to a new location and the visual and performing arts department was afforded their own building, something Asson said makes the children extremely privileged. This year, her students performed the calypso Progress by King Austin in the choral speaking category. The judges were impressed by the creativity of the piece which included hip-hop style beat boxing.
SanFest continues until November 26. For more information, contact the San Fernando Arts Council at 657-7665 or [email protected]