Happenings (November/December 2008)

A brief look at the events that will have the Caribbean buzzing in November and December

  • Costumed pirates in the Landing Pageant, on an authentic sailing ship, 'invade' a Cayman Islands harbour. Photograph courtesy Pirates Week Office/Miguel Escalante
  • The festival’s founders, Julia Allison and Ed Vincent. Photograph courtesy the Dominican International Film Festival
  • Jazzman Arturo Sandoval. Photograph courtesy Tranquility Jazz Festival
  • Reggae runners in Negril, Jamaica. Photograph courtesy Reggae Marathon/Misha Earle

Yo-ho-ho and a 10k run

Cannons explode, fire and smoke billow into the air, and two pirates fight while another threatens a harbour guard with the tip of a huge knife. Islanders scatter as marauders invade George Town harbour and snatch the town’s governor.

Don’t worry, it’s not for real. But Dave Martins, executive director of the Cayman Islands’ Pirates Week, said this dramatic invasion, from a replica of a 17th-century Spanish galleon, is the biggest draw at the islands’ biggest festival.

And, he added, “Pirates Week is the only national festival in the Caribbean where the major downtown events—including the night-time fetes by the harbour—are completely free.”

The Pirate Landing Pageant is staged by volunteers on the first Saturday of the festival. Other events include underwater treasure hunts, cardboard boat races, parties—a favourite with the islanders—a kids’ funfair, a huge fireworks show, parades, and a 10k run.

Even though the Cayman Islands were never invaded by pirates—unlike some other Caribbean islands—the authorities and officials used this common island theme to create a unique and interesting festival that Caymanians can call their own.

This year’s event, the only one of its kind in the region, begins on November 6 and runs for 11 days.

For more information: www.piratesweekfestival.com

Maresa Patience


Antigua’s book festival: from Arnold to Zee

Antigua’s glorious beaches and the historic architecture of Nelson’s Dockyard are famous around the Caribbean. Less well known is the major literary event the island hosts each November. Perhaps that’s about to change.

The Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival, now in its third year, is the brainchild of two sisters originally from Montserrat. Their original idea was modest: to stage an event that would raise funds for Antigua’s public library and promote literacy on the island. Luckily, they didn’t stop there. When the festival was launched in 2006, it brought together world-famous writers—the headline act was Antigua’s own Jamaica Kincaid—with up-and-comers and a handful of publishers, for a weekend of readings and book-signings, plus workshops for aspiring literary artists. In its second year, it incorporated a writing competition for schoolchildren.

Onward and upward: in its third year, the festival programme boasts Dominican-American writer Junot Díaz, whose novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was the literary sensation of 2007—reason enough to plan a trip. Lorna Goodison, Zee Edgell, Arnold Rampersad, Marie-Elena John, and Ramabai Espinet will be there too.

The 2008 festival takes place from November 7–9.

For more info: www.antiguaandbarbudaliteraryfestival.com

Nicholas Laughlin


Island Hopper

Dominica’s World Creole Music Festival
When: November 1
Where: Windsor Park National Stadium in Roseau
What: The climax of a three-day celebration of creole culture
For more info: www.festivalmusiquecreoledominique.com

Port Royal Music Festival
When: November 7–9
Where: Morgan’s Harbour Hotel, Port Royal, Kingston, Jamaica
What: A music festival with a line-up of pop, R&B, reggae and jazz performers.
For more info: www.portroyalmusicfestival.com

Kingston Restaurant Week
When: November 8–15
Where: Restaurants across Kingston, Jamaica
What: Gourmet dishes at discount prices
For more info: e-mail intek01@infochan.com

10th Annual TTSA Carriacou Sailing Series
When: November 13–16
Where: Tyrell Bay Marina
What: Beach activities, sailing races
For more info: www.ttsailing.org

47th Annual Antigua Charter Yacht Show
When: December 4–9
Where: Nelson’s Dockyard Marina in English Harbour; Falmouth Harbour Marina and the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, both in Falmouth Harbour
What: a week of yacht viewings, dinner parties and networking
For more info: www.antigua-charter-yacht-meeting.com

Run Barbados
When: December 5–7
Where: Bridgetown
What: A combination of marathons and 10k races with world-rated runners
For more info: www.runbarbados.org

Carriacou Parang Festival
When: December 19–21
Where: Carriacou
What: Free open-air concert, live performances by entertainers from around the world, competitions
For more info: www.grenadines.net/carriacou/parang.html

Film drama in DR

Directors, producers, cameramen, actors, film editors and other film industry folk gather every year on the white sands of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic for the country’s annual international film festival.

The fourth festival, run by co-founders Ed Vincent and Julia Allison, will take place from December 11–14.

The organisers, the New York-based public relations and marketing company Vincent Partners, have made the festival a hit with Hollywood high rollers, such as producer and actor Vin Diesel. He used the Dominican Republic as one of the places to shoot the upcoming Fast and Furious (2009). Actor Joe Pantoliano of The Sopranos attended last year.

Head of the PR Department at Vincent Partners Sarah Boyd describes the festival as “four days of film, sun and fun at the luxurious Sun Village Resort & Spa and Maxim Bungalows in Puerto Plata.”

The events include film screenings, including Spanish-language programmes; panel discussions; a mix of studio and independent films; a children’s film workshop; VIP parties and events; and a spectacular awards ceremony.

For more information: www.dominicaninternationalfilmfestival.com

Maresa Patience


A taste of history

Martinique is considered by some the rum capital of the world, and attracts rum connoisseurs for whom trekking through the island’s 11 rum distilleries is the high point of their vacations.

To enhance the experience, the Saint-James rum museum, in the town of Sainte Marie, hosts two rum festivals each year, one in June and another in December.

Unlike the festival in June, when visitors gather to celebrate the end of the sugar-cane cutting season with music, dancing and rum-drinking, the focus of the December festival is for visitors to taste various rum products made in Martinique.

Visitors can also learn about Martinique’s sugar-cane history from 1765 to the present through an exhibition of prints relating the history of rum-making. The museum also has a garden, which contains windmills, distillery pipes, an antique sugar-cane locomotive and huge oak barrels. And if you like what you taste, you can buy a bottle or two to carry back home.

For more information, call: (596) 596 69 30 02/(596) 596 69 50 37

Laura Dowrich-Phillips


Anguilla jazz: straight, no chaser

Over the years, several music festivals around the Caribbean have sprung up, most sporting the word “jazz” in their names, causing many jazz aficionados to shake their heads in disgust, since few, if any, jazz artistes perform at these events. But the organisers of the Tranquility Jazz Festival, held annually in Anguilla since 2002 (a test run to gauge the response), can proudly say it has always been true to its name.

The festival’s co-ordinators use the phrase coined by jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, “Straight, No Chaser,” as their slogan, underlining that they don’t need performers from other genres to lure anyone to their venues. Strictly jazz every time, this festival has hosted the likes of James Moody, the Hilton Ruiz Trio, Robert Glasper, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Monty Alexander and Cassandra Wilson.

The event will be held at three venues around the island from November 6–9: CuisinArt Resort, Temenos Golf Club and Sandy Ground Beach.

Project manager James Connor, in an e-mail interview, said the festival is structured this way to help visitors get a feel for the island. The format seems to be working: Connor says last year’s attendance was up by over 100 per cent.

The international lineup changes year to year, though the festival has had one or two repeats. Featuring local and regional artistes as much as possible, this year’s attractions are American singers Patti Austin and DeeDee Bridgewater, Cuban trumpeter and pianist Arturo Sandoval, American trumpeter Christian Scott, and Jamaican saxophonist Dean Fraser.

Mirissa De Four

For more information, contact the Anguilla Tourist Board at (246) 497-2759, visit their website www.anguillajazz.org, or contact a travel specialist at jazzfesttravel@aol.com

Reggae while you run

A careful balance of runner care and entertainment has made Jamaica’s annual Reggae Marathon popular with runners and spectators.

It’s now in its 13th year, but race director Alfred Francis says the 5.15am start still gives him goosebumps, as runners are led by torchbearers for the first few metres, and rastafarian chants and drumming raise the vibes to set them on their way.

Both the marathon and half-marathon start at Long Bay Beach Park, a seven-mile stretch of white sand in Negril, which is home to some of Jamaica’s most exclusive beach hotels.

“We try to include as much of Jamaica as possible,” says Francis, of the race, which takes place on December 6. “There is music along the full length of the course: we have tents with steelbands and live bands, and we have mobile music, with the Digicel music truck and cars with top-of-the-line sound systems. (The cars/mobile discos are selected in a competition held before the marathon.)”

Last year’s winners were Rik Ceulemans of Belgium and Jeannette Seckinger of Portland, USA.

Hotels and restaurants in Negril have also thrown their support behind the event by participating in what Francis calls “the world’s best pasta party.” Chefs engage in some friendly competition to serve up exciting gourmet pasta dishes during the pre-marathon event.

The Jamdammers runners’ club hosts a number of road races, but the Reggae Marathon is its proudest achievement. The Negril Bash, the Victory Party and Awards Jam and the three-day Marathon Expo have also grown up alongside the marathon.

For more information: www.reggaemarathon.com

Tracy Assing


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