As we in the cultural industries look towards the future and are exposed to so many wonderful and exciting visions for Barbados, including “To be the #1 entrepreneurial hub in the world by 2020”, it is easy to become overwhelmed and wonder, what part can I play in helping to achieve these ambitious goals for our country. However, the reality is that we have every opportunity to play a part in this process. As a matter of fact, it is our culture that defines Barbados and makes this island such a unique entity. The rich blend of food, music and fashion, along with our creative spirit, is what persuades tourists to fall in love with our little paradise. Therefore, as a cultural practitioner /entrepreneur, I am suggesting that we should envisage Barbados as the cultural capital of the Caribbean by 2020.
The reality is that Barbados offers a great cultural mix which, along with many other supporting factors, make this island a prime candidate for being the ‘go to place’ for high quality, cultural entertainment. Importantly, these supporting factors include a relatively safe environment with a low crime rate; and, with specific regard to events, very low incidents of lawlessness.
Barbados can supply an excellent range of accommodation, from simple guesthouses to 5-star properties and luxury villas. Communications are strong; the available ground transportation is good, both public and private in the form of hire cars and taxis; while air access is excellent, including the additional support provided by the recent introduction of the new, low-cost regional air carrier RedJet.
The fact is that on any given weekend in Barbados one can find over fifty events to attend, with diverse entertainment ranging from poetry readings and jazz trios to nightclub bands and pop concerts. Additionally, there are also the many well-established, annual events such as the Holders Season, Christmas Jazz, the Crop Over Festival, Strictly Latin, Soca on de Hill, Barbados Jazz Festival, the Sandy Lane Gold Cup and the Barbados Music Awards, just to name a few.
In addition to the comprehensive range of events mentioned above, Barbados can offer great venues like the Frank Collymore Hall, Farley Hill, the Wildey Gymnasium, the Plantation Garden Theatre and Kensington Oval, which has already proven that it is capable of hosting international concerts with the successful staging of the Rihanna Loud Concert on August 5th, 2011. Also worthy of note are the very credible, experienced and professional Barbadian concert promoters like Deryck Walcott, producer of Christmas Jazz and the John Legend concert; as well as Ebonnie Rowe, producer of Honey Jam Barbados.
With our abundance of talented musicians, performing artistes, chefs, designers, fine artists and cultural entrepreneurs, we need to find more platforms to showcase their talent. More importantly, we also have to maximize our capacity to leverage this creative talent to develop our national economy and increase foreign exchange. We need to capitalize on these strengths and market Barbados as the ‘Cultural Capital of the Caribbean’.
In addition to attracting more international guests, successfully establishing Barbados as the cultural capital of the Caribbean would mean that our island neighbours would increase their visits to our shores, seeking the extensive potpourri of events and entertainment we can provide. It is a fact that in all the islands, irrespective of the strength of their economy, there are always people with high disposable income who are seeking to be entertained. I have always believed in the strength of Barbadian culture as a brand and I am absolutely positive that, with the collective focus of our combined cultural expertise, we could not only make Barbados the cultural capital of the Caribbean by 2020, but also simultaneously play a significant part in the growth of our economy and the increase of our GDP. With this, I see the creation of a model that elevates the cultural industry to its rightful position within society and, by extension, similar due recognition for its various practitioners. This will finally prove that culture and the arts in Barbados can be viable professions that stand as equal a chance of providing a successful career as the traditional options in mainstream academia.