Sunday 5th November 2017… H.E. Sir Rodney Williams and Lady Williams joined High Commissioner Karen-Mae Hill in Leicester, staff of the High Commission and members of the Antigua and Barbuda diaspora in the United Kingdom for a Service of Thanksgiving to mark the 36th anniversary of Independence of Antigua and Barbuda. The service was an initiative by the High Commission and the newly formed diaspora group in Leicester, Wadadli Link, led by Sharon Frederick. The service sought to revive the tradition of holding an Independence Service in Leicester after a period of dormancy.
This year, the independence celebrations focused on the country’s efforts to rebuild Barbuda after the passage of Hurricane Irma in September. In line with the theme, ‘Unite to Rebuild’, H.E. Sir Rodney Williams in his feature address reminded the community of the destruction caused by Irma, and highlighted that ‘ the true test if maturity is not the age of our nation, but the ability of our people to work together in spite of our differences or our distances’. His Excellency also brought greetings from the Hon. Prime Minister Gaston Browne who along with the Governor General thanked the people of Leicester and the wider diaspora for their rapid mobilisation to support the relief effort in Barbuda.
High Commissioner Hill also offered words of encouragement and gratitude to the Diaspora for their continued support to the rebuilding initiatives. She acknowledged the significant challenges faced by the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda. She however noted that these challenges which has been made lighter by ‘the outpouring of support from our Diaspora in the United Kingdom and many persons who have visited Antigua and Barbuda as tourists or who merely read about the devastation and felt moved to support’. Her Excellency further urged the Diaspora and other partners to continue to lend their assistance in the rebuilding efforts.
Pastor Sam Gardiner was the officiating minister. Rev. Katie Kirby, born in Leicester to Antiguan and Barbudan parents, encouraged the congregation to recognise our interdependence even as we celebrate our independence. President Frederick was supported at the service by the participation of Mrs. Dawn Thomas, President of the Antigua and Barbuda National Association (London); Mrs Mervin Caesar-John, Chair of the Antigua and Barbuda, Waltham Forest, and Dominica Twinning Association and Mr. Anthony Thomas, Chair of Barbuda Rise. The service was also rich in music and poetry with stirring renditions from Mark Bunney on the saxophone, Arianne Whyte and the Leicester Central SDA Choir, comprised mainly of singers of Antiguan and Barbudan descent and local poet, Vanessa Francis. Wadadli Link was formally launched in Leicester in the presence of High Commissioner Hill on Saturday 28th October 2017 with the slogan “One Love, One Aim, One Destiny”.