Island Beat (Winter 1994)

What's happening in the Caribbean?

  • Gary John Norman
  • The new St Lucia Racquet Club. Photograph by Chris Huxley
  • Government House, the official residence of Barbados's Governor- General, where royal visitors and heads of state have been received for generations. Photograph by Penny Hyman- Roach/ Barbados National Trust
  • One of the huge rooms inside Government House. Photograph by Penny Hyman- Roach/ Barbados National Trust
  • Photograph by the Barbados Museum
  • Part of Dominica's new Soufriére/Scott Head Marine Park. Photograph by Roxan Kinas
  • From right: R.S. Misra, Managing Director of Caribbean ISPAT; Trinidad and Tobago's sports minister Jean Pierre; Peter Short, president of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control; and the WICBC's Pat Rouseo
  • Working Barbados's Paint It Jazz festival: Wynton Marsalis
  • Working Barbados's Paint It Jazz festival: Arturo Tappin
  • Working Barbados's Paint It Jazz festival: Cassandra Wilson
  • Nobel prizewinner Derek Walcott. Photograph by Bruce Paddington


The second edition of Grenada’s annual Sailing Festival takes place in early February 1995, and promises to build on this year’s triumphant start.

Around 40 boats took part in the first Festival last January, including competitors from Canada, the United States, Europe and Venezuela. Many of them seemed to remember the after-race parties and the Carenage street party as vividly as the racing itself. Prominent were two international sailing celebrities, World Laser Champion Terry Neilsen and America’s Cup winner Buddy Melges, who guested as captains on several of the boats and did some head-to-head match racing off Grand Anse in identical Soveral 43s (Buddy won).

Buddy and Terry are guests again at the 1995 Festival. It starts on February 2 with feeder races from Trinidad, Bequia and Barbados and a welcome party the following day. The four main races take place on February 5 (Mount Gay Trophy), 6 (Carib Beer Trophy), 8 (Ace Hardware Trophy) and 9 (Coca Cola Trophy), each day’s racing ending with a parry at a different venue.

In between there’s a workboat regatta and a lay day (“jungle party”, promises the brochure), and the final day ends with a presentation ball.

The races will take yachts along both of Grenada’s coasts, Atlantic and Caribbean. The organisers promise plenty of land-based activity too- from island tours (St George’s, the beaches, national parks, waterfalls and rainforest) to great music. Mount Gay is staging a street party, Carib Beer a jam at the Moorings dock.


After almost a lifetime of living and working overseas, Derek Walcott, St. Lucia’s Nobel laureate for literature, has come home.

Apart from the one semester he teaches at Boston University, the rest of his time is split between Trinidad, where he works with the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, a group he founded 35 years ago, and St. Lucia, where he has formed a Foundation which he hopes will make St. Lucia a haven for literature and art students as well as professional writers, actors and artists.

The Foundation’s base will be Rat Island, a tiny islet off the west coast of St. Lucia. A much more picturesque place than its name suggests, it has been leased from the St. Lucian government, and local lawyers, architects and building contractors are giving their time free to ensure that the project is completed. Money for construction is being raised by donation and through various fund-raising efforts.

Once the island’s derelict buildings have undergone total refurbishment, the facilities will include two residential villas, an auditorium and restaurant, and a jetty to receive boats from the main island.

Walcott has been busy gathering support for his project. The president of Boston University has agreed to pay the salaries of the teachers. An airline has promised to pay their passages. The Swedish Academy and a couple of large American businesses are prepared to help. The University of the West Indies and the University of the United States Virgin Islands are also interested in the project.

The idea is to invite writers, artists and other professors to teach classes of small, selected groups of students. “I want to have a faculty each summer with two fiction writers, two poets and a film maker or artist,” said Walcott. “Scholarships will be given from different places for people to come here, and there should always be at least five scholarships for Caribbean people which would be given by a university or government.”

The project will foster exchanges between young people from all over the world and like-minded Caribbean people. Said Walcott: “A lot of Caribbean artists get down because of not being in touch with international artists and a lot of international people don’t know how much art there is here.”

Walcott does not intend to make Rat Island just a summer school. He has other projects lined up, such as Caribbean-based actors’ workshops that would keep the centre running all year round.

Rat Island will also be available to artists uninvolved with the faculty.

“It is the perfect place to work, and I thought it would be a place where not only students but international writers who want to be in a relaxing atmosphere could concentrate on what they were doing.”

Even though the Rat Island Foundation is without a home, it is already at work. It held the James Rodway Memorial Poetry competition last year, and whether the facilities are complete or not (construction is to start before the end of 1994), a two-week programme in creative writing is scheduled for 1995.

Meanwhile Walcott will be directing the film and television version of his major recent work, Omeros. The film will be shot by Academy Award-winning cinematographer Sven Nvkvist, whose work includes Cries and Whispers, Fanny and Alexander, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Chaplin. The New York Center for Visual History, which produced such acclaimed TV series as Voices and Visions and American Cinema, is producing the adaptation as well as a one-hour documentary on Walcott and the making of Omeros.

Shooting begins next year, in St. Lucia and Trinidad, Senegal and London, with an international cast. Some of cinema’s leading actors are being approached for the project, including British actors Helen Mirren and Albert Finney, and American actors Roscoe Lee Browne and Giancarlo Esposito.

Caroline Popovic


American jazz star Lou Rawls heads the team of artists who will be playing at Barbados’s jazz festival, Paint It Jazz (January 13- 15). Also coming from the United States is Wild Mango, an all-female jazz band which has been attracting international attention, while the ever-popular Courtney Pine will be flying in from Britain.

Sharing the festival stage will be Canada’s Jim Galloway, the Canadian Jazz All Stars, the Heartbreakers Orchestra from Brazil, and Cuba’s exciting ensemble Perspectiva which made a big impression at the 1994 festival, accompanied this time by vocalist Maira Caradid Valdes, whose performances are described as “sensational”. Young Barbadian musicians Nicholas Brancker and Andre Woodvine complete the line-up.

The three main shows are being held on successive nights Jazz It ls (January 13 ), Jazz, Jazz, Jazz (14) and Headline Jazz (15) – but the producers promise plenty of “after-concert jams”. BWIA is the official carrier for the festival, which is being produced by GMR International Tours in association with the National Cultural Foundation in Barbados, supported by the Barbados Tourism Authority, Barbados Rediffusion and Steinway.

The 1994 festival was a big success: apart from Perspectiva, it featured American jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Cassandra Wilson, Andy Milne, and several leading Caribbean jazzmen – Barbados’s own sax player Arturo Toppin, Trinidad and Tobago’s Mike Boothman and St Lucia’s Luther Francois. “Unforgettable,” reported one critic.


When the West Indies cricket team set off on its tour of India in October, it had the backing of a new corporate sponsor, to the tune of US $200,000. This was the first time that a company had sponsored the West Indies cricketers on an overseas tour. The benefactor is ISPAT, which produces steel in the Caribbean, at the Caribbean ISPAT plant on the Point Lisas industrial estate in Trinidad and Tobago. “Cricket is to the West Indies as ISPAT is to steel,” says Caribbean ISPAT vice-chairman Laxmi Mittal, who leads ISPAT’s international operations from the group’s headquarters in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Mittal is an avid cricket fan. Five years ago, when the Indian cricket team toured the Caribbean, ISPAT hosted a cocktail reception for both teams at the Trinidad Hilton and awarded cash prizes for excellent performances; the dialogue that started then led to this year’s sponsorship.

ISPAT is offering performance incentives to the players on the India tour, to a value of US $100,000. Anyone breaking vice-captain Brian Lara’s 1994 record of 375 runs in a single Test match innings will receive $50,000 for his efforts. The tour itself, which lasts till mid- December, involves three Test matches and six one-day internationals, including a triangular one-day international with India and New Zealand.

Mittal is also the driving force behind ISPAT’s international expansion. It is completing its fifth steel mill in India, and has reached into Canada and Mexico as well as Trinidad, in the last two cases turning around a steel plant within a year of acquisition. ISPAT took a ten-year management lease on the state-owned Trinidad plant in 1989, when it was losing money, and quickly doubled sales turnover; the plant now exports Trinidad steel to the United States, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Far East.


People living around Soufriére and Scott’s Head in Dominica always knew that the bay contained an unusual variety of marine life and some spectacular dive sites; visiting dolphins and pilot whales were a common sight. Now, the word is getting around, and the Dominica government has moved to protect the bay and its resources.

The Soufriére/Scott’s Head Marine Reserve was launched last June. It occupies an immense bay between the Scott’s Head peninsula and the coastal area of Anse Bateaux, embracing the fishing villages of Soufriére and Lvdiaville.

Dominica’s fishery authority, supported by France, is embarking on a management plan to control the use of the bay. Apart from fishing, the bay accommodates divers, ocean kayakers, snorkellers, swimmers – and scientists. To avoid the overlapping and potential conflict, these will now occupy separate zones.

An extensive public education programme will help to protect the reserve, and the French government is funding new yacht moorings and dive boats to halt reef damage. Consultants will be helping fishermen to adopt new techniques and equipment, and new scientific studies of the area’s reef life are planned. Safety regulations – including a ban on spear fishing and compulsory use of buoys at dive sites – are already in -place.

Roxan Kinas


One of the biggest annual events at the Barbados Museum, on the outskirts of Bridgetown, is the Fine Craft Festival (being held this year on December 4, 12 to 6 p.m.).

Craft items are available everywhere in the Caribbean, but this festival is special. The Barbados Museum seeks out unique, one-of-a-kind items to create a display which in its first five years has become noted for its quality, beauty and curiosity. This year over 50 of Barbados’s top artisans have been invited to exhibit.

The work ranges from the ethnic to the very elegant, from funky to fantastic. There are ceramics from coffee-mugs to earrings, table tiles to garden urns. Traditional crafts such as basket-weaving with local grasses are always popular. Weaving and fabric arts are one of the biggest sectors: silk batiks, applique wall hangings, hand-painted cushion covers and T-shirts, hand-dyed cottons in brilliant Caribbean colours.

Other artists create truly unusual jewellery in silver and wood, or using sea fans and glass fragments. The children are not forgotten, for many craftsmen bring along wooden buses and colorful mobiles, handsome traditional dolls or chattel-house -piggy-banks which always prove popular.

The Museum itself displays its own print and map reproductions, Caribbean Christmas cards and ceramic figurines, based on its rich collections. The Museum’s shady courtyard is given over to Barbadian cuisine: traditional sweets, preserves and home-made pastries. This year, for the first time, the Craft Festival will be followed by a major folk concert, featuring many of Barbados’s leading performers.

If you’re anywhere near Barbados in December, don’t miss out on a really unusual event.


Come January, the Barbados National Trust will again host its popular Open House programme, which allows visitors a privileged look at some of the island’s most exclusive private homes. Now a winter season tradition, this 13- week programme takes visitors through the homes and ground of properties that are of architectural, historical or celebrity interest. The owners open their homes – ranging from historic colonial plantations and classical period homes to elegant properties of the rich, royal or famous – to support the Trust’s work.

Every Wednesday from January 11 to April 5, one of 13 magnificent homes will be open from 2.30 to 5.30 p.m. Among the many houses involved in recent programmes are Heron Bay House, an awesome west coast property built in 1947 by the late Ronald Tree; Government House, the official residence of the Governor-General of Barbados since 1703; Nelson Gay, home of art collector and critic Eric Estorick; Maddox, a home redesigned and formerly owned by the British stage designer and architect Oliver Messel; Holders House, dating back to the 1650s; and Lancaster Great House, one of the island’s best examples of colonial architecture.

The annual Open House programme has become a major revenue earner for the National Trust, which seeks to preserve and protect the Barbados environment, cultural and built as well as natural. The Bds$12 entrance fee includes a full tour and a complimentary drink; members of reciprocal trusts or societies pay only Bds$4. The Trust provides directions for self-drivers, or offers a full tour package including transport for Bds$35. Details for 1995 will be available through local hotels and newspapers.

Roxan Kinas


Harmony Hall in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Harmony Hall in Antigua (both art galleries owned by Peter and Annabella Proudlock and committed to quality Caribbean art and craft work) are hosting several craft fairs over the new few months.

The series starts on November 12-13 with a major international event – the Caribbean Craft Fair 94 – in the lovely surroundings of the Antigua gallery. This will be a joint venture with the Caricom Export Development Project, sponsored by Red Stripe Beer. It promises to be the most comprehensive craft fair in the eastern Caribbean, attracting producers and buyers from across the region, from Belize to Guyana. A telephone information line after the event (809 460-4120) will provide wholesale buyers with regional contacts for quality craft products.

In Jamaica, the Ocho Rios gallery follows Antigua’s lead (November 26-27, and again over the Easter weekend, April 15-17) to promote the vast range of Jamaican craft work.

Both galleries have regular art shows running monthly from November to May, featuring art and sculpture by leading Caribbean artists, in addition to carrying the best in Caribbean craft. All events are open to buyers and to the public, and admission is free.


Some of the tennis world’s biggest names will be in St Lucia this December to compete in the Legends Cup Tournament, part of the annual St Lucia Open Tennis Tournament (December 12-18).

One of them is Ilie Nastase, a former Wimbledon finalist and US Open champion who has been in winners’ row so long that he is a legend both inside and outside the tennis world. He will be joined by the former UK Davis Cup player John Lloyd, the US Davis Cup captain Tom Gullickson, and Marty Riessen and Roger Taylor, formerly ranked among the world’s top ten players. Australian Roy Emerson, who has won more tournaments than any other player, will compete.

St Lucia has been preparing for this event for some time. In 1991, Club St Lucia invested close to US$3 million to create the St Lucia Racquet Club, a handsome tennis complex with nine courts – seven of them are floodlit Laykold Cushion courts. There’s a swimming pool, a squash court, a fully-equipped gym, a clubhouse and a pro shop. The main court is overlooked by the clubhouse terrace, and has a fine stand on the other side with seating for about 500.

The aim was to attract world class tennis to the island. The St Lucia Racquet Club has already hosted two Davis Cup tournaments, in 1993 and 1994, and has put the island in the forefront of Caribbean tennis. The St Lucia Open attracts players and enthusiasts from around the region, but John Easter, Club Manager and Tennis Director, wanted a major international event to bring some of the biggest names to St Lucia.

The Legends Cup Tournament, sponsored by Club St Lucia, American Airlines and the St Lucia Tourist Board, was launched at this year’s Wimbledon Championships (Ilie Nastase proudly wore his Club St Lucia T-shirt).

Chris Huxley

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.