Grand Bahama is looking forward to the 13th Annual Festival Noel, which is to be held at the Rand Nature Centre, Friday December 7th, 2007. Sponsored by Bristol Wines & Spirits, Ginn Sur Mer, Parfum de Paris, John Bull, Freeport Advertising & Printing and Cool 96. This fundraising event, which raises money for the Grand Bahama Branch of the Bahamas National Trust, is the event of the holiday season. It offers to its attendee’s great food from some of the top restaurants on the island as they compete in the Chef Noel competition. A selection of wines from near and far provided by Bristol Wines and Spirits. To top it all off, it offers you an opportunity to enjoy some beautiful art. This year will prove to be no different as this year’s event will feature not one, not two, but three very talented guest artists as they showcase their work entitled “Our Natural World”.

The first of these esteemed artists is a gentleman by the name of Mr. Derek Roderick. Mr. Roderick is a photographer and bought his first camera at the tender young age of ten. He spent the summer shooting black and white photos and then developing those photos in his bedroom closet. Fourteen years later Roderick became a professional scuba diver and of course with camera in tote he got his first real taste for underwater imaging while shooting video on shark dives in Nassau, Bahamas. Since then Roderick has traveled and worked as a diver extensively throughout many parts of the world. Places like Mexico, Palau, The Philippines, United States and right here in The Bahamas. Having over 3,000 dives under his belt and camera still in hand, Roderick has been able to take amazing photos underwater and on land. Mr. Roderick was also just recently married to his Bahamian fiancé in Costa Rica. Roderick states, “I am very excited to have been asked to be apart of this year’s festival and look forward to being able to show my work along with my colleagues”.

The next of this trio of artists is a native Bahamian by the name of Mr. John Thompson. Thompson who has been interested in illustrating the natural wonders of the islands since he was only four years old is now doing just that through his creative artwork. When he was seven years old, Thompson joined the Royal Bahamas Horticultural Society and began a lifelong interest in plant life. He continued this interest while attending St. Andrew’s School. He then continued onto Tabor Academy in Massachusetts, he illustrated the botanicals series “Wetland Plants of Cape Cod” for Tabor Academy’s Marine Science annex and Tufts University’s “Tropical Marine Ecology Manual”. Moving on to continue his studies at the University of Miami, he assisted The Bahamas National Trust with several projects, including the Mangrove Ecosystem poster and the Birds of The Bahamas coloring book. He continues working on a large collection of Bahamian Botanicals and most recently with The Danguillecourt Project on the book “Islands of The Sun” and a field guide to the northern Exuma Cays. He works primarily in acrylics on canvas and on paper. He has collections of his work throughout The Bahamas and North America.

Last but certainly not least of this trio is Ms. Nikita Shiel-Rolle. Ms. Shiel-Rolle is an Irish-Bahamian who was born in Toronto, Canada in 1987. She re-located to the Bahamas at age seven. Growing up in Nassau, Shiel-Rolle spent her days outside surrounded by nature and the sea. In 2001 she got a summer job working at Stuart Cove Dive Bahamas as a snorkel guide and she fell in love with the ocean. She continued he association with Stuart Cove for a number of years allowing her to acquire dive certifications from open water to dive master. A long standing interest in photography was then stimulated by the opportunity to join the Fin Photo staff at Stuart Cove’s, where she was trained as an underwater photographer and videographer. Her passion for nature and the marine environment has continued to develop and in 2006 she enrolled at the University of Miami as a Marine Science and International Studies major. She is also minoring in business and photography. During her time at the University of Miami she has started working with Dr. Pamela Reid who is a marine geologist conducting research in the Exuma Cays and has joined The Danguillecourt Project, committed to education research and art celebrating the Bahamian environment in which her colleague Mr. Thompson is also apart. Ms. Shiel-Rolle’s most recent photography focuses on the unique habitats of the northern Exuma Cays. Some of her special collection of “scientific art” will be featured in the book “Islands of The Sun”.

All three of the artists are indeed looking forward to coming to Grand Bahama and hope that this will not be the last time. Along with the feature artists, other artists from around The Bahamas such as Malcolm Ray and Ken Heslop will have their art pieces available for viewing as well, from paintings to photography to jewelry. There is just no end to what Festival Noel has to offer. Tickets for the festival are available at Bristol Wines & Spirits, John Bull and at the Rand Nature Centre for $50 dollars in advance and $55 dollars on the day. BNT members can purchase their tickets from the Rand Nature Centre for a $5 dollar discount.