A CONFERENCE OF THE ISLANDS: looking at key issues including managing change, tourism and climate change

The Commonwealth Heritage Forum organised A Conference of the Islands—with funding from the UK High Commission in Barbados—with the aim of developing a deeper understanding of the shared needs and opportunities for the heritage of the Caribbean. The purpose of the conference was to listen to local people, so we could understand better the needs and priorities of the Caribbean region, and also identify potential conservation projects as well as the local skills gaps which exist.

A Conference of the Islands was hosted at Wildey House, the headquarters of the Barbados National Trust in Bridgetown, on 9 & 10 February 2022. Taking place over two half days, A Conference of the Islands was organised in conjunction with the Caribbean Heritage Network and the University of the West Indies, and with support from the UK High Commission in Barbados and the Barbados National Trust.

Given the current circumstances and travel restrictions due to COVID-19, this event was hybrid: with people joining in online from around the world, and just a few meeting in-person in a socially distanced space.

Pictured left to right: Peregrine Bryant (CHF Board Director), Alissandra Cummins (Director of the Museum and Historical Society of Barbados), Philip Davies (Founder and Board Chairman CHF), HE Sir Rodney Williams (Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda), HE Scott Furssedon-Wood (UK High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean), and Brent Fortenberry (Director of Preservation Studies, Tulane University).

A Conference of the Islands was opened by His Excellency Sir Rodney Williams, the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda, the founding patron the Commonwealth Heritage Forum. He underscored the importance of preserving both tangible and intangible Commonwealth heritage in the region even in the face of present-day challenges:

“There are many challenges to our heritage such as climate change, natural disasters, changing economic and social pressures, neglect, dereliction, ill-conceived development and inadequate resources. All take their toll. There is no doubt that this Commonwealth Heritage Forum event is a timely and relevant response to this reality. I am confident that it will also serve to underscore the call made in the recently held CDEMA and UNESCO conference, to include culture and heritage in the national disaster plans in our region.”

There were also opening remarks from Scott Furssedonn-Wood MVO (Resident British High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean), who commended Sir Rodney and Lady Williams for their work in championing the cause for the restoration and adaptation of Government House Antigua and Barbuda into a heritage tourism product that will enable the legacy of the past to have contemporary relevance to the benefit of the people.

Philip Davies (Chair of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum) and Alissandra Cummins (Director of the Museum and Historical Society of Barbados) also spoke to open A Conference of the Islands.

Over the two days, the conference covered key current issues including managing change in historic areas, tourism and climate change. Speakers and topics at the Conference included:

  • Dr. Charlotte Andrews (Bermuda National Trust): Bermuda World Heritage: World Heritage management from the local experience

  • Kara Roopsingh (Trinidad and Tobago National Trust): Challenges of Heritage Policy in the Caribbean

  • Dr. Sherene James-Williamson (The University of West Indies, Mona): Challenges for Caribbean Heritage in the face of Climate Change

  • Dr. Kerry Hall (Tourism Consultant): Heritage Tourism in the Caribbean—The next frontier of economic development exploring the challenges and potential

A Conference of the Islands forms the start of the Commonwealth Heritage Forum’s initiative to develop a 5-year training programme to build heritage skills across the Commonwealth. With an initial focus on the Caribbean region, it offered an unprecedented opportunity to understand the most pressing heritage threats and challenges—and bring together all those interested in the built heritage of their islands. The wider programme will be the largest Commonwealth heritage project ever undertaken and is to be launched in London in mid-May to mark H.M. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

You can watch the conference presentations below or follow this link to the Commonwealth Heritage Forum YouTube Channel.

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