If you’ve had a few too many…keep walking

Mirissa De Four falls into step with a campaign to help drinkers learn their limits

Cricket lovers show their support for West Indies cricket and responsible drinking. Photograph courtesy Mark Tomaras

“When they drink they rum, they only want roti…” So starts one of the many chutney soca hits of this year, singing the praises of alcohol. Adesh Samaroo even launched his career in 2003 with one of these songs, “Rum Till I Die”. This should help you understand one thing about Caribbean culture: drink can play a large part in it. And drinkers may even agree with KMC’s soca song “I’m Not Drunk” – that is, despite the fact they may be staggering, vomiting and blurry-eyed, they insist they’re not drunk. This is why Johnnie Walker’s (JW) Know Your Boundaries campaign is so important.

Launched in 2007, the campaign was a major feature of JW’s sponsorship of the ICC Cricket World Cup and Diageo’s (JW’s parent brand) first pan-Caribbean responsible drinking programme. With their “Responsible Drinking Ambassador”, Sir Vivian Richards (voted by Wisden the greatest One Day International batsman of all time in 2002), they set out to use the one thing that brings West Indians together – cricket – as a tool to show the effects of drunk driving.

During the 2009 West Indies v England series, which ended in April, the campaign focused on the need for a designated driver. With public transport in the Caribbean practically non-existent after dusk, party-goers may have few options for getting home, which is where having a designated driver, who sticks juice or water, comes in. Alternatively, you are encouraged to drink in moderation, hire a taxi or just walk home.

JW has also developed some “edutainment” – using customised eyeglasses to demonstrate different levels of alcohol impairment that reduce a user’s ability to see and respond to various driving situations. The idea was to show how just a few drinks can decrease your ability to assess speed and distance. A survey was also commissioned in five Caribbean countries to see how West Indians view alcohol use and drunk driving.

When England came to Trinidad, JW invited Caribbean Beat to take part in a three-day programme that included the opportunity to glean batting and bowling tips from Sir Viv himself, as he explained the game to overseas journalists (who had no clue what cricket was before they came here!).

JW also organised a “Keep Walking – Don’t Drink and Drive” march, led by Sir Viv and the new Responsible Drinking spokesman, retired fast bowler Michael Holding. The Twenty20 match between WI and England (WI won by six wickets with 12 balls remaining) capped off this Carnival-style walk to the Queen’s Park Oval, which featured live performances by soca singer Destra Garcia and chutney soca artiste Ravi B.