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island conversations
podcast series

Helena-BennettIsland Conversations
00:00 / 49:04

"Island Notes" composition in Cretan Flat Mandolin by Christophoro Gorantokaki @"Melody Box"

Welcome to SICRI’s “island conversations” podcast series.

The aim of these podcasts is to highlight the work of island studies scholars and practitioners who make a significant contribution to islands’ research, arts, and culture landscape.

The podcasts are accompanied by a curated transcript that is edited to read as an independent piece.

James Ellsmoor

Hello and welcome to the SICRI networks Island conversations Podcast Series. My name is James Ellsmoor and I'm the CEO of Island Innovation. And I will be today's guest host for what I think is going to be a fascinating conversation about cultural heritage and preservation. Today we are traveling to an island, that I'm sure many of you have heard about, St Helena in the mid-Atlantic Ocean, and I am delighted to welcome our special guest, Helena Bennett, who is the director of the St Helena National Trust. Good morning Helena. How are you? How is everything on the island today?

Helena Bennett

Good morning, James. Thanks for hosting me. Everything is bright and sunny on St. Helena today.


Fantastic. I have an introduction here about you, and then we'll dive into some questions. 


So, Helena is a born and raised St. Helenian or Saint, as people on St Helena refer to themselves. Growing up on the island surrounded by the ocean, marine conservation was Helena’s first love, and she spent many of her early years volunteering in marine protection. Helena has got experience around the South Atlantic as, like many young Saints, she ventured to the Falkland Islands, Ascension, and to the UK to work outside of the island, but eventually came home to St. Helena and everything it has to offer. 


Helena played a role in the St. Helena auditing arena and with the pinnacle in setting up the St Helena government Internal Audit Office, introducing governance and ethical assessment and the risk management framework. However, the ocean, which is St. Helena’s biggest attraction, remained a priority to her, and after 10 years of auditing, Helena joined the economic development agency, as the tourism manager and later, the Director of Tourism. Here, Helena was able to work with the local government and private sector in setting up best practices for, not only marine tourism but also land-based tourist activities. And under her watch, tourism development focused on St. Helena’s Natural built and cultural heritage, which I think is what we're going to get into today. 


When the economic development project came to an end, Helena was successful for the position of Director at the St. Helena National Trust, where she remains today. And the trust's remit is to promote, conserve, educate and advocate for the island's natural built and cultural heritage. Since being in the post, Helena has focused on increasing the importance of conserving the built and cultural heritage alongside the continued natural heritage work carried out in the marine and terrestrial environment. Helena is the chairperson for the Liberated African Advisory Committee who is working on interpreting the island's role in slavery and the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, following the reburial of 325 liberated Africans from the island (and liberated in quote I should say, Africans) airport project. The question of identity and ancestry is a personal interest of Helena. And when international people tried to place her, Helena response is, I'm a saint. I love that introduction. Thank you for sharing that. And maybe, I mean, there's so much we can dig into in this conversation, Helena. Perhaps we can start by setting the scene a little bit. So, I shared a bit about your history. Maybe for those who might be less familiar with the island, you can give a bit of a broad overview that expands on what I just said about the island’s history and some of the key points, from your perspective, that people should know about.

Looking at Flagstaff from the Peaks National Park.jpg

Looking at Flagstaff from the Peaks Nation Park

As James said, earlier, St. Helena is in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean. So, we sit between Angola in West Africa, and Brazil, in South America. So, you know, we're right in the middle of nowhere. St. Helena itself has only had an airport since 2017. So, we've only been flying in and out of the island in the last five years. Prior to that, since its discovery in 1502, we've only ever operated by ships. So, we had to wait for a call from the ship to come to the island to bring fresh goods, bring people back and forth any services that we need, it all came in through the ship. So, our life revolves around the ocean and the maritime world. 


So being in the middle of the South Atlantic, we were in a good spot for the Portuguese who discovered our island on the 21st of May 1502; we became a watering hole for them. So, on their way back up to Europe, or on the way to India, they would stop here to replenish. Of course, then the Spanish found out about us, and the British found out about us, and then they fought over St. Helena and eventually in the 1600s, the British East India Company, took over St. Helena and settled it. So, we became settled in 1659, and we continue to be a sail and trade port. So of course, they decided they needed to put people here. So, we had farmers put here, military, because they still had to protect the island -they all came to live here to make St Helena who we are today. 


Of course, now when they need farms, they need people to work the fields, and they need people to help with the military. So, the East India Company started with the slave trade to St. Helena. And when they would be transferring slaves to other parts of the world, they would drop slaves off here, at St Helena. So, we then ended up with a mixed nationality of not just the British, from East India Company, but also from the eastern part of the world. So, we had Indians, and we also had people from the Philippines, Thailand, and all those areas around the Indian Ocean. We also had people from the east side of Africa. So, we had Mozambique, we had people from the coast side, from Madagascar. They all came through to St. Helena as well and were enslaved people, and then eventually became free. 


So, in the 1900s, we stopped doing censuses where it was ‘man’, ‘woman’, ‘blacks’, or ‘Chinese’, it just then became St. Helena’s man, woman, or child. So, we lost the identity of different colors, of different nationalities and we all blended together to become Saints. Hence my type of accent. We speak English, but it has hints of different languages all mixed into it, to what we now are in St. Helena today.


The island itself, being so isolated, evolution happens here all on its own. So, when people brought in plants, and animals, it then evolved to be what is known as uniquely Saint, so it becomes native to St. Helena. And in some cases, we actually have a lot of endemic flora and fauna. So, we don't have big, huge animals here. Most of our unique creatures are wirebirds, so little birds, or insects, which makes St. Helena so great. 


Including in our ocean as well, most of the fish, nudis, and anything there that is most uniquely endemic to St. Helena as well. So, what we have found in the last, I would say 20 to 50 years, St. Helena has been very much interested in what makes it St. Helena. And we have found that St. Helena holds a third of the UK and all its overseas territories, endemic species here on Island. So that makes us extra special.


Fantastic, yeah, definitely. Important. And we can talk a little bit about the trust's role in biodiversity a bit later. But I think you've shared a lot about what it means today to be a Saint and to be from St. Helena. And I'd love just to focus on that idea of identity a little bit and explore if you have some thoughts on how saints perceive themselves today and what that identity really means for the island. I think it's important that in your introduction, you said that, like many smaller islands, it's very common for people to move off the island, and have experiences. So as part of that maybe you can also mention the relationship that St. Helena has with some of the other South Atlantic islands, the Falklands Trust, Tristan da Cunha and Hakuna Ascension Island. So the Saint Identity today and also that relationship with the other islands of the South Atlantic – I would love your thoughts on that.

Examining the bug collection at the Trust Office.jpg

Examining the bug collection and the Trust office.

So to shape that as the story, St Helena, because of its isolation, and you know, we were a thriving port in the 1800s until they built the Suez Canal. So after the Suez Canal got built, they no longer needed the island for the shipping lanes that used to come through. So as a result St. Helena became very poor economically. And it kind of shaped who the people are today as in versatile, and they learned to live off the land and the sea and to make do with what they have. So it made us [into] very strong and durable people; we will do anything to fight for our families and make sure that they are living comfortably in their homes. I mean, don't get me wrong, we were not very poor now, you know, we are middle-class citizens compared to the rest of the world. But as a result of that poor economy, you had the gentleman of the island starting to look elsewhere for work, because they needed to send money home to take care of their families. 


So as a result, Ascension, which is used for a US military base, was one of the areas where Saints, especially the Saints men, would go to work contract; as in build the airfield, doing the bulk fuel farm, doing the general maintenance of the island, so it is fit for purpose. And likewise, after the Falklands War in the 80s, Saints started to go to the Falklands to do jobs for the military. So they could again send money home to their families. Now, our economy is that our mortgage system is also very low as well. And here in St. Helena, we don't have a culture of renting as high as elsewhere in the world. We tend to build our own homes. So all those Saints that went away to live on the Falklands and Ascension, would save their money to be able to build their own homes here. So they knew that they all had their own houses when they came back to St Helena. But when we moved to the Falklands and Ascension, it became a community where you have the saints there, you know, mainly Saints working on Ascension. On the Falklands, the Saints mixed with the Falkland Islanders as we are both overseas territories, so we kind of had the same sense of familiarization and being, as a British citizen. But whilst they worked in those places, St. Helena was always, and is always, a little bit part of their hearts, as in, this is home. And regardless that they've gone and set up another life on a different island. It is still home here. And island life is very similar, but you also find they will still celebrate St. Helena’s day, and they will still make traditional St. Helena foods that they will share with other nationalities that are there with them. So St Helena got this way of hooking onto you, that once you are a Saint, no matter where you go, you always look to St Helena to say, that here we are, and this is our home… I think that answered the question.


Yes, definitely. And I think there are a few things that will resonate there with other islanders around the world; this idea of diaspora and the relationship between the people living on the island today and the people who've emigrated. But that continued cultural connection. And I think also, it's really important, this idea of remoteness and how that changed over St. Helena’s History, as you said that, when shipping was the key transportation. There was the African slave trade, and the transatlantic slave trade, but also trade happening from Europe to Latin America, let's say. St. Helena was the center, a key central port that people were depending on for stops. And then as that technology changed, and shipping became less important, in the 1900s, that fell, it became less important, and so the island felt more isolated. And I wanted to bring that today to talk about how after that period of being, perhaps one of the most isolated places in the world, all of a sudden in the last few years St Helena has become very connected, and there might be […] we could do a whole podcast series, I'm sure, on the history of the airport, and I don't want to get into that. But just to say a little bit about how life has changed since the airport was built, and also with the new (I'm not sure if it's arrived yet or is due to arrive soon) internet connection, and how those two things have really changed the remoteness of the island, and I'm sure your day-to-day work on some level.


Yes, but I have to tell you this is the most interesting part. It’s not really the airport that has actually changed the island. It is actually the internet and the faster connection that we have in communicating with the outside world. St. Helena, because for our listeners, we are only a population of about 4300 people. So everybody knows everybody in St. Helena. And we have a habit of when we drive in our cars, we put our hand up, you don't really have to know the person, and you don't have to talk to the person, but you put your hand up to them in the car. If you walk in in the street, you say “Hello, how you doing”, as you walk past people in the street. It is a kind of mannerism, or tradition of a Saint that when we walk, we look at each other and we talk, which is so different to the big outside world, because everybody is heads down, you know, avoiding eye contact.


Since we had our mobile phones, I would say in the last seven years, we've been on mobile phones. You now see the kids, more than often on their mobile phones, their heads down in their phones. And that is what is changing the tradition of the island. And why we as the older generations are still trying to remind the younger generations, look up, speak, say hello to people as they're coming through, you know, don't get too consumed about your mobile phone. So we don't actually have the cable connected in yet. So we're not running on fiber optic yet. They are currently still working to actually put that in place. And hopefully, it’ll be here by next year. But the airport itself, prior to the airport, so when we used to have the ships come in, you get the little old ladies going to the seaside and sitting on what we call the honeymoon chairs, and watch who comes in and gets off the ship, or who's going on the ship. It is a kind of ritual where people just go and gather at the seaside to see who comes and goes. 

Helena standing on Pride Rock looking over Sandy Bay.jpg

Helena standing on Pride Rock looking over Sandy Bay.

So we were worried that we were going to lose that kind of connection. However, when the airport started and flights coming in, you now get people going to the airport to watch who’s coming in and out, spend a day at the airport, sitting at the restaurant, chatting to other people. So we just transferred it from the sea to the air. But what we also realize is that, when the airport came, it is the first time that quite a few people on the island had even seen an airplane. There is still quite a few people on island that has never even traveled off the island, or has even flown in an airplane. So it's still a lot of firsts, that has happened and for St Helena, as our isolation becomes less and less and we become more open to the outside world.

So our biodiversity as well, we also still going to protect it, because whilst we want to connect, have a better connection to the outside world, we also still need to protect the biodiversity that makes St. Helena what it is today. So we have to be careful with pathogens, any invasive species. So our biosecurity is quite big, and we are quite serious about making sure that nothing impacts our landscapes and environment.

Absolutely. That's really interesting to hear about how those changes have impacted, and I think now we can come on to talking about the National Trust work. It will be good to keep those changes that the island is going through in mind as we talk about the role of the St. Helena National Trust on the island. So maybe it will be good […] we talked a little bit in the introduction about your trajectory into joining the trust and becoming the director as you are today. But maybe you can also mention a little bit about the National Trust's history and the core role it has on the island.

Yes, so the National Trust. It was formed in 2002 by some government personnel and also conservationists that are passionate about the island. They formed it with the idea of, as our motto goes, that we actually conserve, protect, advocate for, maintain and educate the locals and international communities about St. Helena’s, built, cultural and natural heritage. By natural we mean in both terrestrial and marine environments. So the National Trust itself, it has a core grant funding from the St Helena Government as an NGO to work on the conservation field. But we also are mainly funded through external funders. So we actually go out looking for funding streams for projects that are protecting and conserving our natural heritage, as well as our cultural.


It is wonderful working in the National Trust. I've always been volunteering with the National Trust since a young age. So to be here now as its director is actually brilliant. Every single thing we do […] so we have got quite big natural heritage projects on the go. So we have.. we look after invertebrate species, especially our endemics, we look after our little wirebird because at the moment that is our only endemic bird that is left on the island. We originally had six, but five other species had died out. So we now protect this one and we also look after the island’s biggest reforestation project. So basically, it is filled with gumwoods, ebonys, redwood, and it is a community forest, we take children and adults there to learn or even for spiritual wellbeing. So it is all part of the Trust work. But the underlying elements of every single piece of work we do, there is also a cultural reason for why we're doing it. It has a cultural connection to the island. So we're not just conserving the wirebird for the wirebirds sake. It is also a piece of cultural heritage for the island because that is our last surviving endemic species, the only one found nowhere else in the world, but here on St. Helena. So looking after its environment, it is basically conserving that piece of cultural heritage. 


And likewise with the gumwoods at the forest project that we have. That area where we did the reforestation, it was once part of what we call the Great woods. But because of you know, when men settled on the island, you then had the goats that eat the trees, you had men cutting it down and it became barren land. So we, as the Trust, replanted it and is now 20 years strong of flourishing as a new forest. So we are basically telling the cultural story of what it used to be, how man has actually destroyed it as a result of development, and now how we, as the Trust, is conserving that, and now bringing it back to its natural state again. So therefore, cultural heritage forms part of everything that we do. So the Island actually supports and believes in what the Trust does, because they know that it is for protecting the traditions that nobody else on Island would otherwise be protecting or realizing it is stories or records that we must keep.

So a large part of it sounds like the trusts role is that community relationship element. I'm sure there's also an education part of a role that the trust plays there. But I think you've very eloquently linked the culture and the conservation because it sounds like those two are really inextricably linked when it comes to St. Helena. I guess people often think of a national trust as having more of a role in preserving all buildings, let's say. And that's part of what you do, but the scope is much more broad. I guess that is part of being on a small island with a small population that you have to take on a lot of different roles, which perhaps in a larger country, might be taken by multiple organizations. So you have to be very versatile in your approach. But that also, from what you're telling me, allows you to make these important connections. So we're not having this artificial separation of heritage and conservation, for example. 


Do you think there are certain opportunities or benefits, we can come on to challenges as well. But what do you think of the advantages of working in St. Helena compared to a National Trust working in another country or in the UK, for example.

Yes, so last year, I attended the International National Trust Organization’s conference. So I'm met with a whole load of National Trusts from around the world. From the other islands, like in the Caribbean as well as the UK and Scotland, from Africa, and as well from America. So I found that most of the small islands, especially in the Caribbean, quite a few of us have that broad remit. And again, it as you said, it is down to the size of the island and due to capacity, why spread out so many different organizations when you can actually pull it all together into to one. So a few of us actually do exactly what we say, you know, we look after the environment, both terrestrial and marine, we bring in our cultural storytelling, and we also have built heritage. Now, the difference between us and like someplace in the UK, they actually look after specifically different properties and different buildings. And I mean, don't get me wrong, they are beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Here on St. Helena, we don't actually look after just one or two specific properties, we actually advocate for all of our properties. So even though they don't belong to us, some of them are government owned, we lease a few. So the building I'm sitting in at the moment, Broadway House, is one of the Georgian architecture of the Jamestown. So we do look after some, but we don't do it the same way that other places do. So it's not just a showcase or a museum piece, we actually then use it, we repurpose it. So it's like an office building for us. So this is where we work from.


We don't focus on a building like them, we have to go all around. So St. Helena, and like other islands, we tend to be a bit more of a jack of all trades, because it is easier, and also with the capacity that we have locally, it is best to put it all together. But then, like both you and me said, it gives the cultural element, that theme runs all the way through, as in this is the reason why we're doing it, and how it is good for the island, in doing it the way we do.

Definitely, and I'm very familiar with the work of the National Trust in Montserrat and the Cayman Islands; two other UK overseas territories in the Caribbean region. And what you told me, it sounds very familiar from the conversations with those as well. And I think in many of the UK overseas territories, there is a very important role that the National Trust plays for that local preservation role. But that is very interesting, to hear about the linkages between all of this work.


What would you say are the biggest challenges for the Trust given the remoteness of St. Helena and the small population of the island? What are the challenges that you have to face? And how do you overcome those?

So like what most would say […] I really started to make this the first one on my list, but the first challenge is always funding because of the fact that we are 80% project funded. So we're always looking for new funding and new projects to bring on board to be able to continue conserving St. Helena’s heritage. But then not just funding is the main reason, and a lot of people to say, Okay, why isn't your local government providing new and more funding? Well, our local government is basically fighting priorities between modern health, current education system, even down to our social system. So it is those being priorities, that they have to put aside conserving heritage. So it is really hard. Especially that St. Helena is still financially dependent on the UK. So we don't have a lot of money in our economy that is to go around.

Skipping for fundraising at the bottom steps of the seaside.jpg

Skipping for fundraising at the bottom steps of the seaside.

Then other than that, being such a small place, the other challenge is that we need to build local capacity. So we tend to train locals to actually carry out these roles. But then, given the size of the economy and our cost of living, and the rate of inflation here, it is not always easy, people aren’t always able to live here comfortably on the salaries that they get. And so they tend to leave. So it's always a cycle of retraining people. The Trust is quite fortunate, however though, because we actually do have a good team of conservationists that are really dedicated to their roles. But we often do buy in the expertise externally, but then we actually then have to time it, when can they get here, how long can they can stay for? So that is always adding to the challenges that we actually have. 


And then the next part is that because St. Helena is still trying to develop its economy, we then compete with development. So therefore, we could have a nice land reserve area, that is good aesthetically, very pleasing, it is rich with biodiversity, and then it gets earmarked for development. And that means it will be dug and that habitats are lost. So then that is what we actually have to work with government to try and make that balance so we don't lose those ecosystems whilst trying to develop the island. 


So since being in post, I've been working much closer with St. Helena Government as into how we can actually improve our data sharing and the evidence base to pinpoint areas that we will say ‘development is a no go’. We also work to actually advocate for the revision of our land development policy, to make sure that the conservation areas being natural and built, that they are being preserved as well, whilst we develop around it. So we want to work with our local government and our local community to make sure that whilst we living here can benefit from the development, our heritage is still maintained.

Very interesting. And of course, funding is always going to be the problem. But I think there is a very specific issue here for the UK overseas territories where the availability of funding, as you say, is often very much dependent on the UK central government as a donor government, let's say. But also, you're then also limited because of that relationship with the UK, that you cannot necessarily go to other donors outside the UK, as might be available, for example, for some of the Caribbean islands. They have a broader donor base that they can they can go to. I presume there is a there is a double edged sword there with that relationship and reliance on the UK, and then that limits you to them for donations or funding.

Yes, unfortunately, there are.

So, just to move on, I know that your other role is the chairperson for the Liberated African Advisory Committee. And it will be great for you to talk a little bit about that work. I'm not sure to what extent that overlaps with the National Trust directly or that is separate. I'm sure all of this work overlaps to some extent. But could you talk a little bit about […] we already mentioned the history of the transatlantic slave trade on the island, but maybe the legacy that that's left today and some of these important projects that you've been involved with, to preserve that history and talk about that history.

Yeah, so being the Chair of the Liberated African Advisory Committee, I've been doing that for the last five years. So I started that when I was the Director of Tourism, for the economic development project. And after that project closed down, government asked me if I would still continue that role. And I did, as a member of the community, continued with that committee. I had already kind of invested myself into that particular aspect of our heritage. So I was happy to continue it. And then when I moved into the National Trust, and of course, cultural heritage being one of the elements that we are still increasing, and building for the island, it fit really naturally into my role as director for the National Trust, to continue with the Liberated African project. So we've brought it inhouse to the National Trust. We still have a committee. So we have a committee of people from around the island, from government, from the Heritage Society, and from the community that comes and sits in on it. So we all work together, the National Trust with these other organizations, to try to move forward that Liberated African project.

Reburying the exhumed 'liberated' Africans at Ruperts.jpg

Reburying the exhumed 'liberated' Africans at Ruperts.

That project itself, where we are today is that we have successfully re-buried the remains that were exhumed during the airport. For me personally, it is a sense of relief, that we've actually completed that. It's of course, not the end of where we are. Because even though we did the burial, we did realize, during our basic research is that there is a lot to cover for St. Helena’s history or that period of time for St. Helena, in being involved in the slave trade, as well, then thereafter, the abolition. Without the slave trade, and without being involved in the abolition, the Saints wouldn't be who they are today, because we all have an ancestry connection to all of it.


Slavery is a very, very hard subject to teach, to educate people about, to interpret. It is one that we as St. Helenians want to take on and interpret our own history, as in to say, well, what happened, but how does that make us who we are today. So it is quite puzzling for people who come in internationally, and they say, well, where are you from? And we say, we from here, we are St. Helenians… Well, no where you really from, or who are your people? And all we can say is that we are Saints, we know that our families got made up as a result of the slave trade, as a result of the abolition of this, of slavery. We know that our people traveled either on the slave ships, or they came here for contract work. It is who makes us today. So therefore, the second part of our project is now to build an interpretation center. But not the real sense of build, we actually have a building that is earmarked, it is the original building, built in 1865 as a depo for the Liberated African establishment that was set up during the abolition phase. So we want to turn it into an interpretation Center, where we get to bring forth all our records and all our interpretation of how St. Helena operated during the slave trade, and again, thereafter, the abolition period and how it translated to who we are today.

So it is a bit of a big project. The biggest part is getting the funding to refurbish the building to turn it into an interpretation center. And then after, you can go as broad and wide as you like on telling the story of St. Helena’s involvement in slavery, but it brings it home, as into how we as the islanders evolve this as a result of it, and how we tackle the issue of race differently to how the rest of the world did. So it is a story that we really do want to tell.

Do you think that with this discovery during the construction of the airport of this graveyard, and the process that the island has had to go through with this re-burial, and also just a changing narrative, and from what you're seeing, perhaps increasing awareness and certain aspects of the history […] has that had an impact on the wider society in terms of how Saints see themselves or how Saints relate to this difficult part of their history?

I would say the before the airport project even excavated the remains, St. Helena always knew that we had the Liberated African burials. Well, it was a complete burial ground at Rupert’s. That was not only burial ground, though, you know, littered around the island, here in Jamestown, there's loads of graveyards or burial grounds that holds Liberated Africans, Chinese, other different nationalities, as well as the community who was actually living on the island. But it is all over the island. So we accepted that, our ancestors, and how the island lived at that time, they would just bury where it was easy to bury. And we now as locals, we had to learn to live with it, and live amongst it. But the question of how strongly people felt about it, when they actually did dig up. Whilst there wasn’t a sense of […] that is directly my family that you dug up. It was those people, my family come from this group of people into our society, and just the thought of exhuming remains of a human being really, rather than who they were, the fact that it was humans that were being exhumed, is what made it more difficult for the island to accept and wanted them to be returned to the ground really. So during the re-burial last year […] my goodness, it was last year that we did every burial!


The island was so much more satisfied, and relieved and feel more at peace, knowing that these people has now been returned to the earth. We did it completely in a style that is Saint. We did some research into how are we supposed to go about doing this for burial, because we as Saints are completely westernized. And we have British traditions now. So we don't know any of the cultural elements that they would have brought to the island because it got lost. So we needed to make sure that we did a re-burial that is respectful. And the Saints were actually happy that we did it in a way that we would respectfully re-bury our own right now. So it didn't raise a question into ‘who am I now because of the remains coming too light. It kind of reinforced that, we are Saints and we were born off so many different traditions and cultures. But this has actually made us stronger and into who we are today. 

Looking down over Jacob's Ladder at James Bay.jpg

Looking down over Jacob's Ladder at James Bay

Understood. Thank you for sharing that. I think we've covered a lot of different elements of your work and aspects of cultural heritage on the island. I'm not sure if there's something else that we haven't covered that you'd like to bring up or talk about, but I guess to close it would be also great to think about what is next for the island. What are the most important milestones coming up ahead for the island? And also for you, what is the legacy from your work and the Trust's work in the future?

So important milestones coming up for the Trust is definitely the arrival or the use of the fiber optic cable. It would make our work in the Trust, as well as for the rest of the island, much more easy, because it's going to be easier to for us to talk to the people like yourself, have that conversation much more freely, be able to connect more on to webinars without worrying about running over our megabyte allowances. It even adds to the education elements for the schools, as in open up more variety and diverse education and learning materials. Even right down to us and our education and outreach program. We've been connecting other schools from, at the moment from the South Atlantic, so with Ascension Island and Tristan, we've been connecting our schools with them to talk about our marine heritage. So I think that the fiber optic is going to be the biggest milestone that is going to hit St. Helena. 


We are also working on the Cloud Forest project. At the moment, they are puzzling over the pathogens that are affecting some of our endemic trees there. So a milestone would be to understand that pathogen and learn how to treat it, to ensure the preservation of the trees. But for the Trust itself, I would like to see that we more formally document our traditions and culture. A lot of the iconic Saints are getting older, and we want to make sure that we get to preserve their stories, as well as any new memories that we are making today that is rightly deserved in preserving. But making sure that our education is covering it all in a way that we want to, and all the good work that we are doing in the fields that it is sustainable. So keeping the invasives down so our actual endemics can thrive in their habitats, is a long term dedication and one that I am actually proud in how the Trust is keeping it going.

Helena Bennett.jpg

​Fantastic. Well, sounds like you're busy Helena. And there's a lot happening on the islands. But it's really great to hear the scope of different things happening. And I think we're looking forward to having more opportunities to continue working with St. Helena as Island Innovation. And obviously, as that change with the internet is implemented, it's really exciting to see all the opportunities that will come from there. So I hope that will allow us to collaborate even further in the future and continue to share and put a spotlight on the work that you're doing with the National Trust and also all the other organizations and great work happening on the island. So thank you so much for taking the time this morning to have this conversation. It was really delightful. And this has been a really great contribution I think to that island conversations podcast series by SICRI. So thank you to all the team at SICRI for helping let this happen. Thanks very much, Helena.

Oh, thank you very much, James. I enjoyed it. Okay, all right. Have a great day.

Helene Bennett - St Helena National Trust

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