Barbados: 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.”

By Chris Harper

February 13, 2012

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.

Chris Harper

Christopher Harper is the Programme Manager of the Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation a revolutionary organization with a mandate to transform Barbados in to the #1 entrepreneurial hub of the world by 2020. As programme manager he holds the mandate of the organization in high regard which aims to push Barbados forward in its development and on the world stage. Recently, he successfully gained his MBA in Strategic Management from Plymouth University in the UK. This trained musician is also the owner of Notes to Note Inc., a full service entertainment management company. The motto of his company is, The “Keeping the Arts Alive”, and it specializes in the production of cultural events and entertainment tailored to the specific needs of its clients. The company gained the distinction of winning the Barbados National Bank’s inaugural award for one of the Top Five Small Businesses for the Year 2004 as judged by the Small Business Association in collaboration with the Ministry of Commerce. This talented musician studied at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston where he was awarded scholarships and received a number of awards from the Massachusetts State Senate and the Mayor of Boston for outstanding academic performance. With a heart to develop cultural industries in the Caribbean, between 2004 & 2009, he has hosted and coordinated the Berklee annual scholarship tour to Barbados. This initiative has resulted in over 20 musicians from the Caribbean receiving scholarships to the college. In 2009 he was nominated for the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence. This entrepreneur also holds a post graduate diploma in Arts & Cultural Enterprise Management from the University of the West Indies St. Augustine Trinidad. The thesis topic for his MBA programme was “The Potential Contribution of Entrepreneurship to the Growth of a Developing Country”.