Staff at DFAT's mission in Honiara were proud to support this year's Solo Icon singing competition, an event that has been engaging and enthralling fans around the Solomon Islands each year since 2006. Solo Icon has been the highlight of DFAT's public diplomacy program in the Solomon Islands since it began sponsoring the competition in 2008. This year's Solo Icon winners sang to a record Grand Final crowd of 6,000 (out of a population of some 105,000 on the main island of Guadalcanal) that packed Honiara's Multi-purpose Hall, and a national television audience. More than 100 singers had auditioned for a place in the competition.
Solo Icon is a platform for youth development, actively weaving positive messaging on culture, education, health and gender equality throughout the shows. The Global Youth Leadership Nexus set up the competition in 2006, and early winners have assumed mentoring roles in later competitions, encouraging young Solomon Islanders to strive to reach their full potential. The competition winners have all become role models – and some have achieved national celebrity status. Last year's Icon, Grace Andrews, is the face of Our Telekom, the country's biggest telecommunications provider, and also sang the Australian and Solomon Islands national anthems for Australian Governor-General Quentin Bryce's visit in February 2012.
As part of this year's competition, DFAT supported a visit to Honiara by Australian music producer and sound engineer Tom Ford. Tom held a recording, production and sound engineering workshop for local musicians and event organisers, and was a guest judge at the Grand Final. He will also do some recording work with the winners of the 2012 and 2011 competitions when they fly to Australia next year as part of their grand prize.
Australia's High Commissioner in Honiara, Matthew Anderson, launched this year's competition and presented prizes, while Second Secretary Will Ewing participated in the judging panel, which gave feedback to the competitors and eventually crowned Malaitan heart-throb Phil Carlos the main winner. Kenny James won the junior category, and a duet from Burns Creek School won the Star Schools category.
For half the year and even longer, Solo Icon achieves wide media coverage throughout the Solomon Islands, well beyond Honiara, through both traditional media and social media platforms. DFAT contributes to Solo Icon promotions with media interviews and is hoping to help broker the Solo Icon model as an activity that might achieve great results in other Pacific countries.