Caribbean Beat Magazine

Happenings (November/December 2009)

A round-up of current events on the Caribbean calendar

  • Sir George Martin, Beatles producer, in front of the Montserrat Cultural Centre, site of the Alliouagana Festival of the Word. Photograph courtesy Ishwar Persad
  • Bahamas International Film Festival. Image courtesy Bahamas International Film Festival/Lavar Monroe
  • A group of singers at the SVG National Carolling Contest. Photograph courtesy SVG Nine Mornings Committee
  • Roscoe Orman, who played Gordon on Sesame Street for many years, delighted children at the Antigua & Barbuda Literary Festival Village in November 2008.

Montserrat marks its words

Joanne C Hillhouse

Alliouagana, the Amerindian name for Montserrat, is poised to be its latest lure. The name has been chosen for the region’s newest literary festival, which will take place on the island from November 12 to 15.

“I felt that Montserrat needed that kind of economic stimulation, particularly in the wake of the volcanic crisis,” said Gracelyn Cassell, who heads the festival steering committee.

Featured writers include Commonwealth Writers’ Prize winners Earl Lovelace (Salt) and Pauline Melville (Shape-Shifter); novelists Merle Hodge (Crick Crack, Monkey) and Marie Elena John (Unburnable); academics Dr Carolyn Cooper and Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool; dramatists (Ad-Ziko Simba) and memoirists (Rachel Manley). Of these and other participants, Cassell said, “I think their interest is in assisting Montserrat, and I’m really humbled and touched by the outpouring of support.”

A highlight of the Alliouagana Festival of the Word – which includes theatre, tours, calypso revue, and a marketplace – is the evening celebrating Montserrat writers, notably the late EA Markham. Naturally, some of Montserrat’s best are in the festival line-up, such as Sir Howard Fergus, JA George Irish, and Yvonne Selina Weekes. The festival is a project of the University of the West Indies Open Campus (Montserrat) and is sponsored through the Tourism Challenge Fund.

“I feel that the Caribbean is awakening to the importance of cultural industries in general and more specifically, festival tourism and the potential for economic development in the region,” Cassell said.

For more information:



Big screen in the Bahamas

Mirissa De Four

Even Hollywood movies don’t always make it to the big screen – some go straight to DVD. So imagine the uphill battle the film industries in the Caribbean face, since they are minute in comparison. It can be hard for local films to be made available for public viewing, unless they’re produced or directed by someone well known. So Leslie Vanderpool started the Bahamas International Film Festival (BIFF) in 2004, since she believed that “the Bahamas [needed] a platform to showcase [its] motion picture and cultural arts industry.”

This year, the festival, which will be celebrating its sixth anniversary, will be held on December 10 – 17 in different locations around Nassau. Each year, BIFF highlights a region to showcase, and this time it will be shining its spotlight on Hispanic cinema, showcasing six to eight films.

There are seven film categories: Spirit of Freedom, New Visions, Short Films, World Cinema, Caribbean Spotlight, Regional Sidebar and Retrospective. Over the past five years the festival has shown more than 300 films, with 80 films being shown from 26 countries in 2008.

BIFF also has several programmes through which it seeks to give back to the community. One of them, the filmmaker residency, is a mentorship programme that provides screenwriters with intensive workshops during the festival and is open only to Bahamian and Caribbean filmmakers. Industry professionals judge the scripts and the writers are given advice on how to further develop their craft or get their film produced.

Bahamian Maria Govan, director of the critically acclaimed film Rain, passed through the programme in 2005, when she met her film’s co-producers, Nathaniel and Pamela Kohn. She’s one of the programme’s success stories – her film won the audience award at BIFF 2008 and was selected to appear at the Toronto International Film Festival 2008, and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival this year.

Children of God, directed by Kareem Mortimer, who passed through the programme in 2007, is scheduled to open BIFF 2009.

For more information:



A Carriacou Christmas


Every Caribbean country observes Christmas with its own unique traditions, food and music, and in Carriacou, they celebrate with a parang festival. It’s held each year on the weekend before Christmas Day, so this year the 32nd Carriacou Parang Festival will take place on December 18 – 20.

Parang elsewhere in the region means songs with a religious theme sung in Spanish, but in Carriacou they do things differently. The songs are sung in English and they may be not only traditional carols but also about day-to-day happenings, political, social or historical, from throughout the year, whether good or bad. So if you plan to visit, make sure and walk the straight and narrow, or you too might be featured in a song!

The three-day festival begins on Friday with traditional parang carol-singing from house to house. On the Saturday, entertainers from the region will perform in the island’s capital, Hillsborough, and it all ends on Sunday with a parang string band competition. Parang groups, each made up of eight singers and musicians, from villages throughout Carriacou, Petit Martinique and Grenada, compete for prizes and a challenge trophy.

For more information contact David Boatswain at (473) 443-7647 or



Books at the beach

Joanne C Hillhouse

“Bonding over books at the beach” could be the slogan of the Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival, which takes place at the spectacular Jolly Beach.

The festival is now in its fourth year, and it’s a sign of its success that the regulars who joined in from the start are planning to come back. Verna Wilkins, of the UK publisher Tamarind Books,  is one of them. “It’s a great opportunity to meet with other writers from the Caribbean and the USA,” she said.  “It is here that I have met successful authors who write fantasy and biography, fiction and romance and much more – all under one roof!”

The festival’s line-up has reflected its all-embracing appeal. In fact the challenge has been scaling back, especially given the current financial challenges hitting festivals of this kind and the desire to become, as festival organiser KC Nash terms it, a “truly international, Caribbean-focused festival.”

But the organisers continue to be creative about fundraising and continue to draw in some of the Caribbean’s best – among them this year will be Marlon James (The Book of Night Women), Zee Edgell (Beka Lamb), and Elizabeth Nunez (Prospero’s Daughter).

The Antigua and Barbuda festival also continues to reach out to young people, with a youth day for budding writers, a children’s tent at the festival village and other activities. Wilkins, in fact, describes the school visits organised by the festival, which give her and the writers a chance to talk to the children and hear their stories, as a personal highlight of the festival and “a privilege which I very much appreciate.”

Island Hopper

23rd Annual Pro Am Regatta Week
When: October 31 – November 7
Where: Bitter End Yacht Club, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
What: Amateurs and first-time sailors team up with celebrities and sailing veterans for sailing events, cocktail parties, wine dinners, pub gatherings and Q&A sessions
For more info:

University of the West Indies Sports and Physical Education Centre International half-marathon, Trinidad
When: November 1
Where: St Augustine
What: Sporting event featuring UWI students and members of the public
For more info:

Kingston Restaurant Week
When: November 9 – 16
Where: Kingston, Jamaica
What: A week-long event celebrating Kingston’s culinary community
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Fifth annual Turks and Caicos Conch Festival
When: November 29
Where: Blue Hills, Providenciales
What: Competitions for titles of best bartender, conch blower and conch knocker as well as live music, games and sloop race.
For more info:

Nine Mornings Festival, St Vincent
When: December 16 – 24
Where: Throughout the island
What: Pre-dawn street concerts, fetes, fun competitions, traditional music and pan on each of the nine days before Christmas
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St Kitts Carnival
When: December 19 – January 2
Where: Basseterre
What: Annual carnival celebrations under the theme: Nuff Rhythm. Plenty Lime
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Atlantic Rally for Cruisers
When: November 22 – December 19
Where: Rodney Bay, St Lucia
What: An annual transatlantic race starting in the Canary Islands and ending before Christmas in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.
For more info: