Caribbean Datebook (July/August 2015)

Events around the Caribbean in July and August — from juicy mango festivals to Barbados Crop Over

© Digi_guru/iStock.comPhotograph courtesy National Cultural FoundationPhotography by Agile LevinPhotograph by Nickii Kane PhotographyPhotograph by Celia SorhaindoPhotograph courtesy The Division of Tourism & Transportation TobagoPhotograph courtesy Kreyol LaPhotograph courtesy St Lucia TourismPhotograph by Juancho RidderstapPhotograph by Ronald DanielPhotograph by Allylondon/Shutterstock.com

Don’t miss . . .

Mango season

It’s without debate the Caribbean’s favourite fruit, and across the islands the start of mango season is cause for glee. A crop of mango festivals takes the celebration to another level, with opportunities to taste mango dishes, learn about different varieties, and enjoy the sweet, pulpy goodness of the fruit at its best.

Trinidad and Tobago Mango Festival
UWI campus, St Augustine
2 to 6 July
St Croix Mango Melée
St George Village Botanical Gardens
5 July
Nevis Celebration of Mangoes 6 to 10 July
Antigua and Barbuda Mango Festival
Christian Valley Agricultural Station
15 to 16 August

 

If you’re in . . .

. . . Barbados: Crop Over

27 June to 3 August • venues around Barbados
ncf.bb

No longer tied to the last harvest of Barbados’s sugarcane crop, today’s Crop Over is still a time to party and let go of care and worry. The official Crop Over season opens at the end of June, and festivities come to a glorious climax in the first week of August. 10 to 12 July is a steel pan weekend, with the Pan Fusion, Speightstown Market & Pan Around de Town, and Pan Pun De Sand events taking place. On 1 August, Pic-O-De-Crop has nothing to do with sugarcane and everything to do with calypso: Kensington Oval will be the place to see one calypsonian triumph over all the rest. The following evening, Trini soca star Machel Montano will be one of the featured performers at the Cohobblopot Festival, a mix of exhilarating music and costumes.

The weeks of excitement lead up to Kadooment Day, 3 August. The National Stadium comes alive with masqueraders gyrating to the soca beat, as they parade in their costumes. Then it’s time to rest, recover, and plan for next year.

 

. . . Turks and Caicos: Windvibes

5 July • Long Bay, Providenciales
windvibes.com

Thirteen years old: that’s how old Hope LeVin was when she started organising the Windvibes tournament. Nine years later, what began as a kiteboard-only event with just seven participants has become a full-scale watersports tournament, combining kiteboarding, kayaking, stand-up paddling, swimming, and — new this year — windsurfing. And everyone has a chance to get in on the action, with categories for men, women, and children.

A charity event, Windvibes expects to raise US$10,000 this year — it’s become a popular family affair, having attracted over five hundred people to the beach in 2014. Even if you’re not the competitive type, there’ll be a tug-of-war, food, music, and free kayak and stand-up paddling lessons to keep you busy. Adding further cachet to Windvibes 2015 will be the appearance of professional windsurfers Brian “de Action Man” Talma from Barbados and Kevin Pritchard from Hawaii.

That’s not your only chance to make a splash in the Turks and Caicos. On 4 July, the annual Race for the Conch also takes place. It’s been called “one of the world’s most gorgeous swims,” and a glance at the glistening, clear waters of Grace Bay explains why. So dive in! Check ecoseaswim.com for more info.

 

. . . Jamaica: Reggae Sumfest

12 to 18 July • Montego Bay
reggaesumfest.com

Jamaica: home of Usain Bolt, Blue Mountain coffee, jerk chicken — and, of course, reggae. It’s twenty-three years since the annual Reggae Sumfest debuted (to fill the void left by the demise of its predecessor, Reggae Sunsplash), and as usual the 2015 festival line-up includes some of the biggest names in the Jamaican music business. This year, the talent scheduled to perform includes twenty-three-year-old Popcaan, with his focus on dancehall and reggae fusion, and Kabaka Pyramid, with his hip-hop-meets-reggae style.

But despite the name of the festival, Jamaican music isn’t all that’s on offer. Reggae Sumfest has also hosted the likes of Usher, Ne-Yo, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, LL Cool J, Lionel Richie, and Rihanna. Which international stars can you look forward to in 2015? As this magazine went to press, Sumfest was slowly releasing the names of its headliners. For the latest updates, visit their website — and if you’re a lover of reggae, or any kind of music, clear your calendar for the big week.

 

. . . Trinidad: International Conference and Panorama

4 to 9 August • Port of Spain
icptt.com

From its birthplace in east Port of Spain, the steel pan — Trinidad and Tobago’s national musical instrument, and a gleaming testament to creative ingenuity — has long gone global. There are steelbands in dozens of countries on every inhabited continent. But Trinidad is still pan’s sacred ground, and T&T’s annual Panorama competition during the Carnival season, pitting the best against the best, remains the ultimate showcase for the instrument.

But while the Carnival Panorama is restricted to steelbands based in T&T, a new international version of the competition, making its debut in August, will assemble pan sides from across the Caribbean, North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe to compete for the first truly global pan championship: an unmissable event for true aficionados. Organised by Pan Trinbago, the first International Conference and Panorama will bring together musicians, composers, arrangers, and scholars for nearly a week of performances, discussions, and workshops — with pan in the central spotlight. An ICP Panorama Village in the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain’s main park, will include displays, demonstrations, and performances by pan-playing talent from around the world. The hallowed Savannah stage is the only possible venue for the climactic showdown on 9 August, as thirty international steelbands play their hearts out to win the first-ever International Panorama title. There’s a lot at stake for patriotic Trini music-lovers — but whoever wins, the instrument will triumph.

 

. . . Dominica: Nature Island Literary Festival

6 to 9 August • UWI Open Campus, Roseau, and other venues
dominicalitfest.com

Almost every literary festival in the Caribbean has a relaxed, open vibe. Few have views as amazing as the Nature Island Literary Festival’s, where the backdrop is the stunning landscape of Dominica, all dramatic mountain slopes and verdant forest. It surely must bring out the poet in everyone, and not just the writers on stage.

In past years, the festival’s line-up has boasted eminent Caribbean authors like Nobel laureate Derek Walcott and Earl Lovelace, but showcasing and nurturing local talent — a new generation of Dominican writers — is a big part of the plan. So is nurturing the next generation of Dominican readers, thanks to the accompanying book fair. The Nature Island Literary Festival has always reached out to Dominica’s closest island neighbours — Martinique to the south, Guadeloupe to the north — with francophone writers prominently on the bill. And this time around, the headliners include Grenada-based Guyanese novelist Oonya Kempadoo, and St Lucian poet Vladimir Lucien, whose debut book Sounding Ground made waves a few months ago, winning the 2015 OCM Bocas Prize for the best book of Caribbean literature published in the past year.

 

Jam-packed July

10 to 19 July
Montserrat Calabash Festival
Venues around Montserrat
montserratcalabashfestival.com

The versatile calabash can be used to make household implements of all kinds, from water bottles to pipes, and it’s edible too. Montserrat has a whole festival paying tribute to the useful gourd

 

16 July to 1 August
Tobago Heritage Festival
Venues around Tobago

This celebration of proud village traditions includes everything from dance and music to food to a recreation of an old-time wedding

 

17 to 19 July
Festival Mizik Kreyol
Montréal
festivalmizikkreyol.com

The music of the French Antilles, front and centre in the French cultural capital of Canada. 2015’s line-up includes Haiti’s Boukman Eksperyans and Kreyol La

 

18 July
Eid-ul-Fitr
Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname

The Muslim holiday celebrating the end of the Ramadan fast is celebrated with prayers, feasting, and alms-giving

 

20 to 21 July
Lucian Carnival
Castries and other venues
luciancarnival.com

J’Ouvert and the Parade of the Bands on St Lucia’s Carnival Monday and Tuesday are the culmination of weeks of concerts, competitions, and fetes

 

Appealing August

14 to 16 August
Aruba International Regatta
Surfside Beach
aruba-regatta.com

“Three days of parties, three days of races”: that’s the promise. The line-up includes boat races in multiple classes, wind- and kite-surfing, and celebrations galore

 

10 to 11 August
Grenada Spicemas
St George’s and other venues
spicemasgrenada.com

The climax of the Spice Island’s annual Carnival is the parade of masqueraders through the National Stadium and then into the streets of the capital

 

21 to 30 August
Carifesta XII
Haiti
carifesta.net

The Caribbean’s biggest arts festival is back, and goes to Haiti for the first time, with a programme of music, theatre, dance, art, literature, plus crafts and cuisine

 

22 August
Great Race
Chaguaramas, Trinidad, to Store Bay, Tobago

T&T’s annual powerboat race between the sister islands is a major event on the sporting calendar — and the party calendar too

 

30 to 31 August
Notting Hill Carnival
London
thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com

The UK August Bank Holiday weekend brings Europe’s biggest street festival, a celebration of Caribbean music and spirit in the heart of London