The year has barely begun, and the smooth mellow sounds of jazz float over the sun-kissed island of Barbados, whose Jazz Festival has become a major annual event for the whole Caribbean region. Held in January, in a range of indoor and idyllic outdoor venues across the island, the charm of the festival is not only its location but also the wide variety of high class performers it attracts. After a week of concerts, the largest crowd of all gathers to picnic in the lovely Farley Hill national park and enjoy the wonderful historic setting, the informal atmosphere and the great melodies during this, the final event.
The following month, in the parish of St James, you can celebrate the Barbados Holetown Festival in memory of the first British settlers of the island back in 1627 and their African slaves. There is a carnival atmosphere on the island, with many events steeped in history, telling the story of the heritage of both cultures through performances of traditional music and dance, remembrance talks, exhibitions, local art and craft and pure Caribbean joie de vivre in the shape of beauty pageants, calypso bands and street parades.
Held in February or March, the Holders Season is Barbados’ major arts festival taking place in the lovely gardens of the 17th century Holders House in St James. This is the high-brow festival of the year where you would not feel out of place sipping champagne while you enjoy a series of avant-garde performances of new works as well as world premières of classics re-interpreted such as Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ as recently directed by Stuart Copeland, and a broad sweep of other theatre, opera and musical concerts both for adults and children.
According to Caribbean saying, the islands have four seasons, namely: Carnival, Crop Over, Cricket and Christmas. To experience any of these events you are in for a party like no other. Take the Barbados Crop Over, for example, which is the most popular festival on the island. This is becoming an enormous celebration of local talent and culture, and an expression of the joy of local families often reunited from overseas. Its origins are in the festival which used to be held to celebrate the end of the once important sugar cane harvest, and now is a whole series of separate events held over a period of five weeks during July and culminating in the exuberant ‘Grand Kadooment’ on the first Monday in August. From the talent-spotting Community Calvacades and Calypso Tents where the emphasis is on musical entertainment and dance, to the Cohobblopot, the Pic-O-de-Crop and the Fore Day Morning Jam, revellers gather from all over the Caribbean and even further afield to show off their extravagant outfits and natural rhythm as they dance their way along a coastal highway during the grand finale of the event.
Other fantastic events in Barbados include the Oistins Fish Festival held each Easter weekend in recognition of the local skills of the fisherfolk, the Taste of Barbados Festival which invites international chefs and visitors to the event to sample the excitement and diversity of the local cuisine, and the Celtic Festival in Barbados, celebrating everything Celtic from Welsh Choirs to Highland Games.
More rooted in local soil is the island’s Agrofest which showcases the talents of local farmers, providing over three days an enormous number of events ranging from livestock shows to shopping opportunities at the Farmers’ Market and Art and Craft Village, with the emphasis on the high quality of local produce. There are of course opportunities to enjoy sampling the products on display, while enjoying the entertainment provided and learning of the fruits of the labour of those involved in agriculture locally.