PAGO PAGO, American Samoa—Solomon Islands representatives at the 10th Festival of Pacific Arts in American Samoa say they have already begun preparations to host the 11th edition of the festival.
The head of the Solomon Islands delegation in American Samoa, Robert Au, has told the Council of Pacific Arts, which oversees the promotion of culture in the Pacific including preparations for the Festival of Pacific Arts, that Solomon Islands has set itself a firm schedule for completing all arrangements in time for the 2012 festival.
Au says the Council is happy with the timeline Solomon Islands has set. “It’s the implementation part that is always difficult because it depends heavily on financial issues.”
Solomon Islands is well represented at the 10th Festival with a total of 106 artists. A team of observers from the Solomon Islands festival organizing committee is also in American Samoa to note recommendations and observe requirements for hosting the 11th festival.
Au says Solomon Islands will learn from American Samoa’s strengths and weaknesses. The organizing committee will try and emulate the general set up of the 10th festival, including venues, accommodation and meal arrangements, but will also try to avoid some of the hiccups, such as too many last-minute program changes.
Funding is the major challenge anticipated by the Solomon Islands committee. However, it is confident it will secure the necessary finance as the government, which is the main sponsor, has committed its support. The organizing committee will also seek donor funding.
In terms of infrastructure, there are plans to build a rugby stadium and an art gallery before the event, says Au.
“Honiara already has a football stadium, which is the main venue for such events, and a museum,” he says. “All that is required is to give these facilities a facelift.”
Accommodation should not be a problem as Honiara has several options including two large, five-star hotels, Au says. Solomon Islands College of Higher Education and King George VI School will provide the main accommodation facilities for country delegations.
The National Referral Hospital in Honiara and a number of private clinics will offer health services and the organizing committee plans to engage additional health care.
Au says the safety of delegates is a priority. Security will be ensured by Solomon Islands police with the assistance of the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands.
The festival is a chance to counter the negative media publicity of the last few years and create a positive impact on the tourism industry, says Au. “It is an opportunity to show other countries that Solomon Islands is a safe place to visit and live.”
He believes hosting the festival will assist Solomon Islands to bid for other regional events such as the Pacific Games. Hosting the first Melanesian Arts Festival in 1998 was a strong argument in its bid to host the 11th festival, Au says.
“We know if the 11th Festival is successful, it will help us get to the next level of hosting other regional and international events,” he says.
Meanwhile, the Council of Pacific Arts is already looking forward to the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts and has unanimously approved a bid by Guam to host the 2016 event. (SPC)