Friday, September 19, 2008

Bermuda prepares for its 400th anniversary

From the Bermuda Sun
September 19, 2008

A yearlong celebration of Bermuda and its people
Island prepares for its 400th anniversary
An early warning to all islanders: 2009 is going to be off the hook for parties, fun and celebration.

By Helen Jardine

After all, it's not every day Bermuda gets to celebrate its 400th birthday.

To celebrate Bermuda's quad-centennial, The Bermuda 2009 Steering Committee has organized a whole calendar of events - from January to December - that celebrate who we are as a nation and how far we have come.

Chairman of the committee Conchita Ming said she "is thrilled" to be involved with such a historic event.

"It's going to be a busy year," she said. "It is really about celebrating the resilience of Bermuda. We've been able to overcome many adversities and challenges considering we are such an isolated island. For example, we have attempted to be involved in several industries that didn't work for us. We tried tobacco farming and that didn't work. Even recently we were forced to move from tourism to exempt companies. We've met the challenge and that's what we want to look at throughout 2009."

One of the things Ms Ming said she is looking forward to the most next year is their 'Walk Through History' self-guided tour, when 23 plaques will be displayed throughout the city of Hamilton to mark historic landmarks or cultural areas.

"At the corner of Victoria Street and Court Street we are going to put up a plaque to depict an area where many of the island's black doctors used to work," she said. "It's important to reflect on the past. We can use the past as a tool to look forward."

She also said that, despite our size, it is important to recognize the kind of influence Bermuda has had on the larger world.

"The Sea Venture was on its way to Virginia when it was ship-wrecked in Bermuda," she explained. "A year later they built the Deliverance and the Patience out of parts of the Sea Venture and eventually made their way to Jamestown. When they arrived, only 60 out of the 500 people that had landed in Virginia the year prior had survived. The others had all starved to death. Had those from the Deliverance and The Patience not arrived when they did and fed them, that little group would have died off completely we may have a very different United States."

Jamestown celebrated their 400th anniversary last February and Ms Ming was there.

"There were several artifacts that had come from Bermuda in some of the Jamestown exhibits," she said. "Such as cahow bones and turtle shells."

Museums in Jamestown will be sending those articles back to Bermuda to be exhibited in October.

"I'm learning so much just being involved in the committee," Ms Ming said.

One thing she has discovered is that the wreck of the Sea Venture lies only 4-500 yards off Gates' Bay (more commonly known as St. Catherine's beach).

The committee are hoping to install a bronze plaque at the wreck site to commemorate the Sea Venture.

However, there is contention as to when the anniversary should be celebrated.

"Some will say we should celebrate this in 2012 as that is when we became an official colony," Ms Ming said. "But we've had people living here continuously since the wreck of the Sea Venture in 1609 and that is what we are celebrating - Bermuda and its people."

Kick-off celebrations begin January 3.

"Our launch party is going to be amazing," Ms Ming said. "There will be stilt-walking, fire performances, aerial performances, and Japanese drummers."

Events throughout the year include a re-enactment of the wreck of the Sea Venture, a Titanic exhibit, fish chowder competitions, Tall Ships 2009 and a Portuguese Festival.

Most events will be free.

The committee is also hoping to have a Royal visit sometime next year.

Other birthday milestones in 2009 include the 200th anniversary of Dockyard and the 50th anniversary of the Theatre Boycott.

For more information or to find out how you can be involved in the festivities go to

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