In defence of Pirates Week

I am writing in reference to the article in the 14 August Caymanian Compass, titled ‘Pirates Week changes would be gradual.’

In reading this headline I was hurt emotionally as Pirates Week is something very dear to my heart.

The National Festival was started in 1977 by the Late National Hero Jim Bodden and the Late Mr. Mike Lockwood.

It began with the intention it would boost the tourist slow season in October.

Therefore its purpose is to attract people from around the world.

During the festival the tourists have the chance to attend the Heritage Days, which occur throughout the week.

These heritage days celebrate each district’s own unique identity and their contribution to the islands’ history. Therefore what Caymanians need to recognise is that Pirates Week is already a festival that celebrates culture and heritage.

The pirate aspect is a way to lure in the tourists to the festival.

Everyone knows that tourism and banking are what makes our islands more successful than any other in the Caribbean region.

The festival office has the facts and figures on arrivals during that period, which show that Pirates Week had its desired effect.

Why should we stop something that helps our economy to grow with each passing year?

Mr. Lockwood, who was in charge of the Festival for many years, saw to it that heritage and culture were the basis of the festival where tourists and residents could enjoy the rich and fruitful history, which our islands have to offer.

Mr. Lockwood also saw that the heart and love of Pirates Week was aimed toward children. He ensured that children took part in the landing parade.

The children’s fun fair day on Sunday is aimed for children to enjoy themselves where they can win prizes and participate in a costume competition. Each school has its own costume and talent competition and the winners are then able to attend an all island competition held at the Peace Memorial in George Town.

At each district day children are able to learn about the heritage and participate in role plays, allowing them to take in as much knowledge of the islands’ history as possible.

People of the island always attack the issue that children are not exposed to the Caymanian culture; the festival’s heritage days offer this to children.

Mr. Lockwood also saw to it that Pirates Week was not a time for drinking and partying.

He ensured that anti-drug and no drinking messages were sent out through the pirates to the varying age groups.

The Seattle Seafarer Pirates have participated in Pirates Week since 1982.

The club is a non- profit organisation that raises money for children’s charities.

When they come to Cayman they know that they are ambassadors of their city and the Seafarer Festival held in Seattle.

These pirates embrace and love the island and its people. Many of them have made relationships with residents here on the island over the years they have been coming.

These pirates come here to entertain the children, the disabled, the elderly and adults. It is an organisation that operates throughout the year and comes here every Pirates Week with no mind on partying but with every intention of entertaining.

Benjamin Cherry, who portrays Blackbeard, from North Carolina has participated in Pirates Week since 1988. When he is here he participates in the landing and parade and he also goes to every school sharing stories and also spreading the message of anti-drug use and no drinking.

He also does work throughout the year in North Carolina and has returned for Pirates Week every year since 1988 not to party and drink but to deepen and begin relationships.

The Seafarer Pirates, Mr. Cherry and his wife attend church on the island at Saint Ignatius Catholic Church on the first Sunday of the festival showing their respect for the Christian culture of the islands.

This letter is written in defense of Pirates Week because it touches the heart of many residents and non-residents alike.

In January of 2003 I was at a swim meet in Jamaica and a girl with her mother came to me and asked when Pirates Week was that year.

They began to tell me of how much they enjoyed coming to Cayman to watch the parade and go to the heritage days.

This festival has touched groups of people who live in countries with history as rich as ours.

It has the same effect on the Caymanian people and hopefully one day Caymanians will come to love Pirates Week as much as my family and I do.

Michael Lockwood