On Thursday 31 July, the
On Thursday 31 July, the Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (TRC) celebrated 50 year of telecommunications in the British Virgin Islands by honouring six stalwarts of communication in the Territory at an Awards Luncheon at Maria’s By The Sea.
The honourees were: Mr. Dave Douglas for Television Broadcasting; Ms. Linnell Abbott and Ms. Dora Harrigan for Printed Media (The BVI Beacon); Mr. Vernon W. Pickering for Printed Media (The Island Sun); Mr. Merit Herbert for Radio Broadcasting (Radio ZBVI); and in memoriam, the late Mr. Arthur Swain for Telecommunications (BVI Government).
Vernon Pickering thanked all present at the ceremony and said his gratitude goes to colleagues of the media, his staff, with special mention to the indefatigable and Mrs. Delseita Carney-Liburd for persevering through difficult moments for three decades. He also thanked Dr. Giorgio Migliavacca whose sage expertise as adviser and production manager played a pivotal role. He contributed the success of The Island Sun to the newspapers’ loyal readers and friends as well as advertisers and subscribers.
In attendance were the Premier and Minister of Finance of the BVI, Dr. The Honourable D. Orlando Smith and Communications & Works Minister Hon. Mark Vanterpool who delivered special remarks and warmly congratulated each of the awardees. The awards presentations were made by Mr. Guy Lester Malone, Chief Executive Officer, TRC.
The well-coordinated event was effectively punctuated by Mistress of Ceremony, Mrs. Karia Christopher, Chief Administrative Officer, TRC.
29 YEARS AS EDITOR & MORE
Vernon Pickering, is a well-known Road Town native. In the 1960s he moved to the United States where he received the education needed to hone his artistic talent. He studied with the Robert Joffrey Ballet in New York City and then made significant strides under the guidance of Alvin Nikolais and the great choreographer, Balanchine.
He made his debut at New York’s Lincoln Center with the famous ballerina Allegra Kent. Then, he moved into show-business and his records were produced by Philips, Fonit-Cetra International and Polydor-Polygram. Vernon Pickering has made several appearances on television in Great Britain, Europe and the USA, as well as in films.
He has performed on Broadway and London’s West End stages in major productions such as “Show Boat”, “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
In 2006 his album “The Eyes of Love” was published and distributed as downloadable internationally by Amazon and the likes of iTunes. Two years later, his early recordings were digitally remastered and published in cd format in an album titled “Vernon’s Evergreens”. A new album, titled “Stardust” was recorded in Europe and launched there in 2013.
Additionally, Vernon has written two leading works: “Early History of the British Virgin Islands”, (published in 1983, then in 1997 and again in 2000) and the companion volume, “Concise History of the BVI”. He is at present engaged in researching and writing his third book on BVI history. His “Early History” is, undoubtedly, the highest selling book of the BVI. The fourth edition is confirmed for October and will include colour illustrations.
After returning to the BVI he became editor of the leading newspaper in the Territory, “The Island Sun”. Vernon Pickering is the longest serving executive editor of “The Island Sun” – 30 years in 2015 – a BVI record in itself. In a very competitive environment, under Vernon’s leadership the oldest running BVI newspaper has gone from strength to strength.
I will conclude with words of the Victorian philosopher Thomas Carlysle which fit Vernon so well: “Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: it is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.”
THE ISLAND SUN: 52 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENTS
On June 23rd, 1962, the inaugural issue of The Island Sun was published and at the time it seemed impossible that a newspaper could survive without hardly any public or financial backing. It was on the whole a very difficult period for the British Virgin Island, but this did not deter the founders, Carlos and Esme Downing from their new venture. It mattered little that a weekly by the name of “Tortola Times” had ceased publication after less than three years. There was some encouraging support coming from readers, well-wishers and the government and that was enough for the indomitable founders.
During the first decades, contributing writers and columnists included among others British aviation pioneer and hero Sir Alan Cobham, Dr. Norwell Harrigan, Dr. Pearl Varlack, Godfrey deCastro, Dr. Pierre Encontre, McW. Todman, QC, Dr. Quincy Lettsome, and Clarence Christian.
Of the many honours bestowed upon Carlos Downing, none ranked higher than the honorary BVI citizenship presented to him in 1983 by the then Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands, H. Lavity Stoutt.
In 1985 Sun Enterprises (BVI) Ltd (a company locally owned and locally managed) became the official publishers of the oldest-running newspaper of the BVI. Carlos Downing continued as editor for a short while and then Vernon Pickering became executive editor. Between 1986 and 1989, The Island Sun published a mid-week edition which came out on Wednesday. The first Chairman of the board of Sun Enterprises, renowned educator and historian, Dr. Norwell Harrigan was – in 1993 – one of the first two black natives to be honoured on BVI stamps.
During Vernon Pickering’s expert editorship and management the oldest running newspaper of the BVI has fully developed into not only a dependable source of reference, but has also become a household name in the process too. Its publication each week, is always eagerly awaited, and it has developed a growing worldwide distribution network. It is under Vernon Pickering’s skilful leadership that ‘The Island Sun’ has been able to flourish and has gone from strength to strength, with an ever expanding readership and worthwhile news content. This now includes both regional and international items from well-known news agencies. In 1989, ‘The Island Sun’ was the only newspaper in both the British and US Virgin Islands to be published the very same week that hurricane Hugo lashed the islands and brought most services in the Territory to a standstill. In 1992 the BVI Hotel & Commerce Association bestowed on The Island Sun the “Past Merit Commerce Award” “for pioneering and dedicated service of news media in the British Virgin Islands”.
During the early years the weekly newspaper had its own press, but eventually Caribbean Printing took over the job, and by 1987 the whole operation became computerized and The Island Sun was then printed in St. Thomas. The publication has gone from the initial few pages, to the 12 pages of the 1970s, 20 in the early 1980s, to an average of 40 pages today. The weekly newspaper has grown considerably, but its staff remains small and the commitment to serving this community is still the same as the founders. Most importantly in our ever-changing community and economy, The Island Sun has remained punctual, reliable and competitive thanks also to its loyal readership, regular advertisers and a committed staff. Vernon describes the entire enterprise as a “team achievement” that has served the BVI community uninterruptedly for over 52 years. He identifies two pillars of the Sun success story in the persons of publishing consultant Dr. Giorgio Migliavacca, and circulation and advertising manager Delseita “Peggy” Carney-Liburd.
News items and editorials from the ‘Sun’ are frequently reprinted or referred to in the international media, including The Washington Post, CNN, PBS, BBC, and the British Daily Telegraph. Also, Caribbean newspapers such as St. Croix Avis, and the Voice of St. Lucia, along with scores of other travel magazines and publications carry reports from the ‘Island Sun’.
In 1997 The Island Sun became the first Virgin Islands (US and British) newspaper to have its website. A recent survey of the daily traffic on The Island Sun website has shown an average 2,500 visits per day, and on certain days as many as 18,000 accesses have been reported.
In 2002 the BVI Postal Authority issued two stamps to commemorate the 40th anniversary of The Island Sun.
In 2008 the production of the newspaper was digitalized, and in early 2014 the website was redesigned and revamped to provide greater prominence on the net as well as a more reader-friendly and up-to-date format.
During the 1966 Royal Visit, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II asked Mr. Downing why he had ventured into publishing the local newspaper. His answer was that “The Island Sun was not started in the sense of a business undertaking per se…(but) as a community venture and with confidence in the future of the Virgin Islands.” That philosophy and commitment have remained unchanged and the newspaper has kept pace with technology and progress.