This year’s Celtic Festival Barbados is being organised by two Scots from Edinburgh. Carol Anderson owner of public relations consultancy The Business and a frequent visitor to the island, and Colin Mackenzie former organiser of the Scottish Hi-Fi Show, and of retailer Hi Fi Corner fame, have put together a week long’s entertainment aimed at visitors to the island from Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as the local community. The festival opens on May 23rd 2011.
The Celtic Festival Barbados celebrates the historical connections between Scotland, Ireland and Wales and the sunny Caribbean island.
Over three hundred years ago, around the same time that rum was invented – in Barbados – Scots, Irish and Welsh criminals were given the choice of jail or a boat to the West Indies where they became indentured slaves working in the sugar industry, or as servants in the big plantation houses. Descendants of these white slaves live in “Scotland” district on Barbados on the wilder east coast – many of them are extremely poor, but some of the white descendants have done extremely well for themselves, as explained in the BBC4 Storyville series currently running “Barbados at the Races”. Horse racing and polo are very popular here. These Scots earned themselves the nickname “red legs” due to the effect of strong sun on tender white Celtic skin beneath their kilts!
Musical events include Scottish folk legend Eddi Reader and her band, winner of 3 BRIT awards, celtic rock band Killin Thyme, Glenelg’s own Sandra Macbeth and the Shoogle sisters, Donna Moociocia and a major new dance show from Rhythm of the Celts a new troupe formed by Ireland’s Ciaran Devlin, former principal dancer of Riverdance, whose creator Michael Flatley is one of many celebrities who have a house on Barbados. Pipers and drummers led by Martyn Graves, who attend every year will march through the streets and play at weddings.
Thousands of visitors from each of Scotland, Ireland and Wales, make their Barbados their holiday destination every year, and this is the most “revisited” island in the Caribbean with a repeat visitor statistic of 43%.
“Barbados is easily accessible with more than 20 scheduled flights a week in May, with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic primarily from Gatwick, but also from Manchester” says Carol Anderson of The Business.
“We are delighted at the support we have generated to make this event possible from Barbados Tourism Authority, Almond Resorts who own three big all inclusive resort hotels on the island, and Scotland’s biggest travel agency Barrhead Travel, who are our official travel agents for the festival.”
“When I first went to Barbados more than 10 years ago,” continues Carol, “I thought I had died and gone to heaven. It’s hard to explain, but I had 2 days notice on a last minute booking for a week’s all inclusive holiday at the Almond Beach and Spa Resort in Holetown. I will never forget the journey from airport bumping along the local country roads, seeing the little wooden chattel houses, all brightly coloured for the first time. Passing swishing sugar cane fields, the cane arrows bending in the cool trade winds, happy West Indians cycling home on their beat up bicycles after a day’s work. Many of them sitting outdoors at the local rum shops (there are 1600 of them – rum shops I mean) waving their welcome to us as we passed by, the famous reggae music blaring out.”
The warmth of the climate, nearly 30 degrees all year round, the warmth of the Caribbean Sea for swimming, snorkelling and diving, the most beautiful coral beaches of which there are so many to choose from, the warmth of the welcome of the Bajans (the local name for the people of Barbados) is enormous.
“Friends on the island have been asking me for ages to help with the Celtic Festival and this year I said yes. There are so many Celtic connections between our countries.”
As well as musical events every day, there will also be a “fusion of flavours” with visiting Scottish chefs working together with bajan chefs presenting demonstration events and special dinners. “The local produce in Barbados is amazing,” continues Carol. “Local fishermen literally land the catch of the day – mahi mahi, king fish, sword fish, barracuda, tuna. It’s frequently cooked freshly over coals at the road side on a Friday (fish fry night) and in the very many fine dining restaurants. Flying fish is the national dish and a local macaroni pie is another favourite.
“I have been bowled over at the level of support we have received and at the enthusiasm and commitment from all our participants in the festival. Our award winning chef Paul Wedgwood headed out to Barbados at the start of this month to do his research into the local produce and flavours and to make plans to make a bajan haggis,” continues Carol.
Events include a jeep safari trip through Scotland District to learn more about the history, a catamaran cruise on Cool Runnings a luxury operator who regularly sails the celebrities. The local beer “Banks” brewery tour, and events at the famous Atlantis Hotel rebuilt on the east coast and in the Flower Forest now owned by a Canadian who studied at Edinburgh University.
There will be a historical tour of the Garrison Barracks and a talk by Professor Henry Fraser tracing the history of this independent Caribbean island which is still a member of the British Commonwealth. Barbados gained its independence on 30th November 1966, our St Andrews Day, but our Queen is still their Queen.
The festival is supported by The Barbados Tourism Authority and Almond Resorts whose Casuarina Beach hotel is the base hotel for the festival. Other partners in the event include The Crane Resort, Banks Brewery, 21st Century Kilts and Rachel Scott Couture (bridal gowns).
Howie Nicholsby at 21st Century Kilts in Thistle Street Edinburgh is an expert on kilts to wear in the tropics, making Scotland’s most famous garment out of linen, pinstripes and leather as well as traditional tartan wove. Rachel Scott of Rachel Scott Couture has the most amazing whimsical wedding gowns for getting married overseas, and great advice on how and what to pack to get your gown to your Caribbean wedding safely.
Package holidays can be booked through Barrhead Travel by calling 0871 226 2971.
Prices start at £596 for a week long stay in self catering accommodation, including flights from Scotland. A 7 night stay at the Almond Casuarina Beach Resort, host hotel for the festival, all inclusive with flights from Scotland starts at £1266.
Barrhead also has packages from Manchester and London from £470.
This information from:
Carol Anderson, The Business
tel 031 718 6022
mobile 07836 546 256