This year???s National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) will feature several new and improved initiatives, including an expanded and upgraded Culinary Arts competition.

Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this disclosure at the NIFCA press launch on Wednesday, at the Ministry of Culture, Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall, St. Michael.

For 2014, the Culinary Arts programme will stage for the first time a Best Bajan Cook Competition, a community-based cooking contest which will see amateur cooks compete zonally against each other.

Also new is the NIFCA Culinary Marketplace. Billed as the centrepiece of the festival, this two-day expo will have on display and sale, products and services from NIFCA???s award-winning participants across all artistic disciplines.

Additionally, the finals of the Professional Cook-off, Bartending and the Best Bajan Cook competitions will be hosted at that event, at the Wildey Gymnasium.

According to Mr. Lashley, these new activities would highlight cooking skills nationally, and help to better showcase Barbados??? culinary culture. He further revealed that Roberts Manufacturing had given its commitment to the category and would be the ???first time title sponsors??? of the Roberts NIFCA Culinary Arts Programme.

Emphasising that this was ???a vote of confidence in the culinary arts programme???, he remarked, ???I want to compliment them for showing early interest and commitment to what is really a national festival, this augurs well for other corporate citizens to come on board and demonstrate that same kind of willingness.???

Moreover, this year???s NIFCA would encourage greater public participation, with the introduction of a People???s Choice Award in each of the seven disciplines. ???This is intended to drum up support for activities and drive greater attendance at events,??? the Culture Minister said.

In addition, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) will develop an online gallery on their website featuring the images of the top awarded participants in art, craft and photography disciplines.

???This would be for promotion of the festival and for the winning artists. Certainly, the online presence helps to propel the imagery beyond Barbados and we know from our network conferences that there are many Barbadians in the diaspora, and visitors, who are interested in the arts, and who are very keen on seeing what comes out of NIFCA 2014,??? he explained.

Community screenings of NIFCA-awarded films are another new component. Noting the NCF played a significant role in film development on the island, he said these screening would occur throughout the festival as a collaborative outreach with the Ministry of Culture.

Mr. Lashley stated the screenings would garner greater interest in local films, which should eventually lead to developing commercial audience for the film producers.

He said policy was already in place to develop the industry through the Cultural Industries Development Act and the community screenings would help to promote NIFCA???s role in the sector.

NIFCA is open to Barbadians of all age groups; professional and non-professional. It is offered in seven disciplines: culinary arts, dance, drama, literary arts, music, photography and film/video, and visual arts (fine arts and craft).

Author: Shamkoe Pil??

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