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THE NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE FESTIVAL OF CREATIVE ARTS (NIFCA) is in full swing. The event, produced by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), gives Barbadians an opportunity to express themselves through a number of disciplines in the performing arts. Scores of artistes have just concluded the preliminary and semi-final stages of the LIME Performing Arts in the disciplines of drama/speech, music and dance and are now eagerly waiting to find out if they have secured a spot in the upcoming finals and gala. Up for grabs also will be gold, silver and bronze medals and other top awards handed out for excellence. It should not be forgotten, however, that NIFCA, which started about 40 years ago, is a festival of judged performances. Each discipline is assessed by a team of judges who make their subjective decisions, albeit based on given criteria, on what they see before them. Against that background there will be differences among some judges and also participants about the validity of a piece of work – that is human. But the differences should not be such that they foster protests of “Them don’t know what they are doing” or “They sending through the same people all the time”. Artistes are wont to push the envelope when it comes to expressing themselves, and judges should be willing to go on the ride with them by having an open mind. If NIFCA is to realize its mandate as a developmental forum, every effort should be made to improve dialogue and ensure the entrants know where they fell down and not leave it to them to hear conflicting reasons for not going onto the next stage. Participants, too, have to accept that the judge is “the looker on” and can only be moved by what he or she sees onstage. On this score, the questions that need to be answered are these: Has NIFCA sustained its dominance as a critical aspect of Barbados’ Independence celebrations? Is there still the vibrant interest nationally or is it only talked about among the schools and the small cadre of committed artistes who make it their business to be part of the project? As the NCF looks across the culturescape, is it satisfied that the various disciplines are continuing to attract new faces? NIFCA should no longer be seen as only a tool for one-time development and the awarding of prizes and awards. The organizers must build on the general talent and facilitate a sustained environment to create further opportunities for those who might not have won one of the top awards. As the entertainment and lifestyle industries take on a more prominent profile in the world and young people look to them as alternatives to a traditional 9 to 5 job, NCF and the judges should take every opportunity to embrace the “creative” in NIFCA. That requires a certain type of judge and an NCF that can acknowledge not only the tired and overworked themes that conform to criteria, but also the new concepts and fresh approaches to the arts.