My Montserrat: Gracelyn Cassell
Gracelyn Cassell is the head of the University of the West Indies Open Campus in Montserrat. In 2009, Gracelyn began coordinating the Alliouagana Festival of the Word. She was inspired to launch Montserrat’s own literary festival after she visited Jamaica and experienced the Calabash Literary Festival. Gracelyn shares what she loves most about Montserrat and her dreams for the country.
Describe Montserrat in three words.
Tranquil, verdant, and safe.
Which area are you from?
What is your favourite traditional dish?
Goat water, it is our national dish.
What is your favourite childhood memory?
The day from my childhood that I remember the most is when I turned 5 years old, and, I was finally allowed to go to the St. Augustine Catholic Primary School. I remember my father buying me ice-cream which I was even too excited to finish. After school, I spent the entire afternoon singing at the top of my voice, much to the consternation of people passing by who wondered what was going on with me. My parents had to explain that I was happy because I had started school.
What was your favourite subject in high school?
My favourite class was English with the school’s principal Mr. Hoppy. I can recall when he gave me five out of 20 for the first ever assignment I submitted to him. He read it to the entire class. My classmates enjoyed the story, it was action packed, but then Mr. Hoppy was able to explain why it was not a good essay. After that, whenever he gave us five topics from which to choose one for an essay, I would do three and submit them. And he marked them all. He inspired me and while he never gave me full marks, 100% was unattainable; I usually scored between 15 and 19.
Which local activist/personality do you admire the most, and why?
Margaret Elwin. Long before Social Services intervened, Margaret used her own resources to look after the needy in the community. This reminds me of my grandmother calling out to folks going home from a hard day’s work in the mountains to let them know she had just finished cooking and they could come and share her meal. I would hate to see that caring attitude disappear from Montserrat.
What is your favourite restaurant?
I tend to patronise most of the establishments based on what they offer and what I need at the time. However, if I need something out of the ordinary, I would go to Olveston House, Ziggy’s and Tina’s.
Where would you recommend as a ‘must go’ to a first time visitor to Montserrat?
I would recommend an island tour with my brother Norman Cassell. Visitors have said that they come away with a comprehensive understanding of the island’s social and economic history as well as an appreciation of the flora and fauna.
What major developments would you like to see happen in Montserrat in the next 20 years?
Actually, these need to happen now, rather than in the next 20 years. Montserrat needs a fully functional port, improved hospital facility, and the implementation of a sensible solution to the chronic problem of access. In 20 years, I hope we will be selling geothermal power to neighbouring Islands and that our manufacturing sector will be flourishing.