Fire Commemoration Weekend

The Chewstick Foundation (Registered Charity #857) has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of appreciation and support from the community following the devastating fire that took place on July 21, 2016 that resulted with their newly opened premises at 81 Front Street. Over the past year, thanks to generous donations from individuals, small businesses, and corporate donors, Chewstick has been able to continue with some of their programming and service to the community. The Chewstick Foundation continues to deploy select programmes, including their Retreat Programme, whose next date is August 11th, a Heritage Month themed event series in May sponsored by the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, and the Chewstick Community Art Programme which recently completed murals at Gombeys at Clearwater, Overview Hill in Pembroke, and recently commenced installation at St. George’s Cricket Club for Cup Match.


The Chewstick Foundation Executive Director, Gavin Djata Smith comments, “I am completely humbled and grateful for the response The Chewstick Foundation has received, and the work that our friends, family, and incredible volunteers have put into the fire recovery initiatives. The loss of the facility has been heartbreaking, but the community support has opened our eyes to how many people have been touched by Chewstick, either directly, through someone they know, or from the continued cultivation of the arts in Bermuda. This support has re-energized the team and renewed the commitment to the work that we do to bring all of Bermuda’s people together.”


The Chewstick Culture Hub was a facility designed to be a safe space for sharing ideas, creativity and learning through the use of arts as an effective tool to help build bridges in Bermuda’s polarized community. The July 21st destruction of the then newly-completed Culture Hub is now forever marked in the history of the organization, which is still working towards recovery.


Chairperson of The Chewstick Foundation’s Board of Elders, Sharon Baillie reflects on the opportunity the tragedy provided: “It has been incredible to hear how many people view Chewstick as a resource, sanctuary, and creative home. Bermuda needs Chewstick: a platform for developing Bermuda’s talent, a home for the local creative community, and one of the few neutral spaces that can accommodate deeper engagement and understanding. Over the past year many people have come together to reflect on the state of Bermuda’s arts and culture, and celebrate the many accomplishments. It is truly a community organisation, empowering one to enrich all.”


Chewstick continues to reflect on what is next. Smith says, “A constant question has been: when will Chewstick re-open? While several businesses have generously offered temporary office space, years of operating as a nomadic open-mic night have taught us that Chewstick isn’t just about a physical space, it’s about the people. Still, however, Chewstick has never been able to impact lives and community so much as through the operation of a dedicated, purpose driven facility, so we continue to work toward a permanent home.”


The Chewstick Fire Commemoration activities will begin this Friday, July 21st with a lunchtime gathering between 11am and 2pm on the lawn area between Pier 6 and No.5 Car Park, directly across the street from the former Chewstick Culture Hub location. Chewstick would like for people to come together and reconnect, encouraging all members, supporters, and friends to bring their lunch and enjoy or share a story, poem or song, and reflect on the organization, Bermuda and the year since the fire.


On Saturday there will be a Members’ Reunion Bonfire where members will convening for an evening of sharing and expression, while enjoying a swim and food. There’ll be music, an overview of the coming year and the chance to rekindle the Chewstick camaraderie and heart. Anyone interested in becoming a member of the Chewstick Foundation can visit our website or call 292 2439 and we’ll get you all set.


Finally on Sunday, July 23rd, a Fire Concert Fundraiser where singers, poets and rappers will take center stage. The lineup will feature Chewstick family members Kassie Caines (of The Big Chill), Ayana, Sharla Bean, Haz the Human, Matthew Johnston, Tiffany Paynter, Executive Director Gavin Djata Smith, and special guest, international Bermudian reggae artist Mishka. The concert will take place at 7:30pm, in the graciously donated private garden of Gotcha Covered, located at 39 Reid Street, across from Rock Island Coffee. Tickets are available online at, with General Admission available for $30 and Patron Tickets for $100, with all remaining tickets available at the door. The event will provide complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a bar (cash or card), as well as fantastic raffle prizes and merchandise for sale, with all proceeds going toward the recovery of The Chewstick Foundation.


The Chewstick Foundation would like to offer special thanks to the businesses, artists, and many individuals that continue to support through donations, attendance at events, community partnerships and positive comments in person and online. Chewstick is also incredibly appreciative of the efforts and talents donated to the fire recovery efforts by numerous volunteers, members and supporters. While there is not space to thank each individual here, all efforts are deeply appreciated.


If you would like more information or have any questions, contact The Chewstick Foundation through or by calling (441) 292-2439.


The future is uncertain, but like a phoenix, the community can empower Chewstick to rise from the ashes.



The mission of The Chewstick Foundation (Bermuda Registered Charity #857) is to empower storytelling, creative expression, and social justice to enrich youth, arts, culture, and community. This mission is achieved through a diverse variety of programming including; the famous Neo-Griot Lounge Open-Mic Jam Session, the Break The Chains Youth Poetry Programme, T.W.I.G.S. Youth Open-Mic Programme, creative outreach programs with inmates within the Dept. of Corrections, Chewstick Retreat Programme, Chewstick Community Art Programme, and countless events and initiatives highlighting the best of Bermuda’s music, poetry, film, art, and academia. For more information visit or call (441) 292-2439.

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