COMMUNITY TOURISM – AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH FOR SAINT LUCIA?

Castries, Saint Lucia –September 13, 2017. “The craft traditions of Choiseul are cherished by many Saint Lucians, but this does not translate into solid economic and social support for their continuation.  Poverty, low social status, poor work conditions, lost channels of commerce and urban drift, have all led to the current situation where the traditional crafts of Saint Lucia, as practised in the Quarter of Choiseul, will largely die out with the current generation of practitioners unless we can revitalise the industry.“  So says Revitalizing the traditional crafts industry in Choiseul Saint Lucia through Creation of a Cultural Tourism District – a project drafted by Finola Jennings-Clark for the Masters in World Heritage & Cultural Projects for Development of the University of Turin through the International Training Centre of the ILO (ITC-ILO). 

Ms. Jennings-Clark, former Director of Business Development & Marketing at the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF), has long worked in training and development of artisans in communities around Saint Lucia and decided to put this background to the test in authoring her thesis project. She hopes that the concepts in the project can provide a foundation for community-led development in the district of Choiseul, which could provide community-wide sustainable livelihoods and become a case study for similar approaches around the island and even in the wider Caribbean.   This draft project demands a well-planned, integrated strategy that goes far beyond the surface-level short-term actions that have been tried with limited success over the past 20+ years.  Jennings-Clark says she combined her accumulated experience of business innovation techniques, insights from working in Choiseul over the last 25 years and the economic, social and cultural theories and techniques learnt in her Masters study.  She hopes it will not remain just an academic exercise and she has begun to make her full draft available to both community groups and heads of various agencies in Saint Lucia, who could take an active role in fully developing the concepts and putting them in action.

The Cultural Tourism District concept takes tried and tested Industrial District techniques such as have been practiced in Italy, for instance the well-known Murano glass artisans of Venice, where independent smaller enterprises work under a management system that uses a ‘common mark’ which identifies the unique skills and products of the area and provides benefits of common marketing and various other business services. The Cultural Tourism District builds on these concepts with an integrated approach based on community engagement; local solutions; sustainable development and community cultural tourism.  The creation of a Cultural Tourism District, over a 5-year period, would also encompass developing related systems of regulations and organization, infrastructural and facility development; improved linkages with the tourism industry; strengthened market penetration; tailored capacity development activities and incubatory support. 

A fundamental outcome of the project would be to address the reluctance and fears of the younger generation towards entering this profession: The project advocates not just creating tools targeting the youth, but actively involving them in the recording of the traditions and the related submission to the UNESCO Intangible Heritage List, the design of tools and methods to ensure the story of Saint Lucia’s traditional crafts, the technical, scientific and social aspects; are translated into resources such as digital repositories that can be accessed and continually built by the youth, into new products – fashion, science projects, video-games and the like.

The project has several components including suggested improvements to existing artisan studios to make them accessible for tours, but also, the recreation of a Craft Centre in Choiseul which itself becomes a ‘must see’ for both locals and visitors to the island: This ‘hub’ would boast an outstanding design that would use local crafts techniques but re-created in innovative architectural detailing to create an ambiance similar to a 5-star ecocultural resort.  The process leading to this would take an innovative workshop approach, bringing existing artisans, youth, hoteliers, architects and designers together to turn assumptions about the crafts on their heads and create new products based on interactions between buyer and maker. Ms. Jennings Clark notes that the driving of design by the buyers’ needs is actually part of the tradition of craft production in Choiseul and was most recently exemplified by the much-loved couple Sabi and Eugenia of Livity Arts Studio who sadly died during Hurricane Tomas in 2010.  

The Craft Centre décor would then display products made by existing artisans, Choiseul youth and artists, creating a place deeply reflective of the people of the community; becoming a historical monument. The Centre would of course provide a sales outlet but also a museum component where artisans could be seen practicing the traditions alongside historical displays and visitors would be able to take classes with the master-crafters. The role of the crafts in Saint Lucia’s cuisine would not be overlooked, with a restaurant featuring genuine local cuisine using traditional methods such as coal pot and ‘kannawi’ cooked foods alongside fusion cuisine specials. Ms. Jennings-Clark says ideally, the centre would incorporate facilities for small shows – dance, téyat pèp-la (theatre of the people), community training and importantly, school learning visits.

The combined approach is designed to create a future for the crafts profession that is based in the principles of the ILO concept for ‘Decent Work’.  The main expected result of the project is the long-term preservation of the cultural values related to the traditional craft production. The broader social outcome of this would be an increased sense of community, with community pride and identity maintained and reduced urban drift and vulnerability of the district through improved job and earning opportunities, thus maintaining a demographically healthy community in Choiseul.  The project aims to contribute to sustainable development by empowering community through targeted and long-term capacity building to be much more capable of generating their own development. Ms. Jennings-Clark says she thinks it would be idealistic to expect that the district would not continue to need the support of incentives from government, citing the example of the type of long-term support given to the main tourism players, but the project should enable the community to be much better able to maximize the effect of any support they receive.

 

About Finola Jennings-Clark

Ms. Jennings-Clark is a highly motivated, innovative professional with over twenty-five years’ experience, providing leadership and expertise for diverse projects, both domestic and international, for social and economic empowerment within the Caribbean creative community.  She has a proven track record delivering innovative Sustainable & Creative Industries Development Consultancy and Training in arts and culture, agribusiness and community revitalization; sustainable practices; sector analysis; data compilation; marketing; branding; product development; production procedures and quality control; skills training; packaging design; copy writing and editorial.

Her consultancy work includes:

  • Banana Industry Trust/Ministry of Agriculture: Product Development & Training – non-food products: Saint Lucia, May – December 2016
  • Global Environment Fund: Project Design and Project Oversight Committee –Farmers with Disabilities Beekeeping Project, Saint Lucia, 2014-2015
  • Trade Export Promotion Agency: Team Member on Needs Assessment for Development of Natural Dyes Industry, Saint Lucia, March – November 2014
  • Saint Lucia Social Development Fund: Product Developer, Business Planner, Trainer; Apiculture product development and business organization for community farmers, Saint Lucia, July 2012 – August 2013
  • Travel Foundation UK, “Switch of Save Big” Green Practices & Waste Management: Local Coordinator & Training Facilitator, Saint Lucia April – June 2012
    • Initiative to assist hotels to reduce environmental impact by adopting waste management, utility costs reduction measures and composting.
  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization/ Ministry of Agriculture: Secondary Packaging Specialist, Lucia, Sept-Oct, 2010, July – Sept, 2011
    • Developed training syllabus for product development and skills training for handcrafted secondary packaging for agro-products, in pottery, woodwork, basketry and paper.
    • Co-ordinated training team of 5 Trainers and trained 35 traditional and contemporary crafters.
    • Produced over 25 new packaging and co-product designs, developed and trained in modified techniques for reliable, efficient production.
    • Drafted training manuals, trainer manuals, compiled catalogue of products.

She successfully conceptualized, developed and managed several businesses in production and sale of unique handmade goods and delivery of business services: Customized administrative systems and support services; training and innovation; market research, product design and production, marketing, promotional strategy, branding and graphics.

  • Island Effect: Sustainable & Creative Industries Development Consultancy and Training; Saint Lucia, 2011- Present
  • Whistling Frog Studio, Co-Owner-Manager: Business services – branding, graphics, photography and production of ‘Business Card Directory’. Lucia, 2002-06
  • Lucian for Real, St. Lucia, Owner-Manager: Concept, start-up, owned and managed retail shop selling 100% authentic local gifts arts and crafts, 70+ suppliers and own brand merchandise. Saint Lucia, 2002-2005
  • Tififi Studios, Owner-Manager: Concept, start-up, owned and managed production, wholesale and retail. Study and testing of indigenous plants for suitability for papermaking, development of techniques for production of pulp moulded decorative items, production, wholesale and retail of over 100 paper and moulded pulp products St. Lucia/Barbados, 1996-2001
  • Made in St. Lucia, Co-Owner-Manager: Concept, start-up, owned and managed retail shop selling 100% authentic local gifts arts and crafts, 90+ suppliers and own brand merchandise. Saint Lucia, 1995-97
  • Design and production of jewellery, clothing, décor, body products United Kingdom, Barbados, and St. Lucia, 1987-Present

She has worked with the following:

  • Cultural Development Foundation: Director, Business Development & Marketing, Responsible for fundraising; project development; PR & Communications; brand management; marketing; new business ideas; database development. Saint Lucia, October 2013 – September 2016
  • Joseph’s Convent Secondary School: Teacher, Head of DepartmentDepartment coordination, lesson plans, teaching up to Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) Certificate of Secondary Education (CSEC) level, Saint Lucia March 2004- July 2008
  • Government of St. Lucia, Ministry of Community Development, Craft Development Officer: Coordinator of National Development Programme for Crafts, including sector analysis, event management, management of retail and training Centre, training, set up of National Arts & Crafts Association, representative at various International meetings, St. Lucia, 1992-1995

 

 

 

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