Crop Over really is the highlight of the calendar in Barbados. The festival, which takes place in August, can trace its origins back to the 1700s, when workers in Barbados celebrated the end of the sugar cane harvest. Sadly, as the sugar cane industry slowed in Barbados, the Crop Over festival faded out and in the 1940s it stopped being celebrated altogether. Luckily for us, the festival was reintroduced in the early 70s and now is one of the most colourful and exciting celebrations in Caribbean culture. It’s a wonderful time to visit Barbados as there are loads of things to see and do and there’s a real, crackling energy to the island.
We were lucky enough to be invited to take part in most of the main elements of Crop Over 2015 and our first date was with the Foreday Morning Jam. This is a huge, overnight street party where locals and visitors join ‘bands’, then dance and party through the streets. We joined a band called Jambalasse. For a fee (about £70), you get to join the band, ‘jump’ with them (party through the streets) and you get drinks and food and security and even moving ‘wee wee trucks’ which keep up with the parade. We arrived at the Jambalasse area very late at night (every other night we’d been just about finished dinner and headed to bed by 10pm!) and I’ve got to be honest, I was doubtful about my ability to party all night. Luckily, our fellow revellers were really friendly, and we were soon in the party spirit, sipping rum punch and getting decorated with body paint!
It takes a while to get going, but it’s such fun, you don’t even notice. Revellers dance through the streets, the booming DJ trucks move with you as you ‘jump’ along, and the atmosphere is amazing! We met so many lovely people and got splashed with paint and laughed and danced. I can’t believe we made it until 4am when we finally decided we were done for the night. What an incredible experience!
The main celebration takes place on Grand Kadooment Day. This is the final official celebration of the season and it’s an absolute doozy! It’s such a friendly festival. The parade starts at the National Stadium where all the bands (groups of locals, ex-pats and visitors who have paid to join a band and have a wonderful costume made for them) get together and parade. Kneeling down at the front of the parade taking pictures as the bands whirled and danced towards us was an incredible experience. At one stage, it started to rain and a gaggle of girls from a band ran over to shelter under our press tent. It was just the most amazing wall of colour and feathers and flesh! A really incredible moment to treasure.
And this girl was just adorable. And SO beautiful.
What we all LOVED about it was the body confidence of everyone involved. There’s no such thing as anorexia in Barbados. No, really. Not one single case, and it doesn’t surprise me. There’s a culture of love and acceptance that just really blew us all away. Everyone dresses up, everyone parties and everyone looks gorgeous, no matter their shape, size, gender, colour or anything else.
We were lucky enough to visit a couple of the bands at their headquarters, including the very famous Zulu International, the band that Rihanna often ‘jumps’ with. After they’ve paraded through the National Stadium, where there are judges who award prizes for various elements of the costumes and performance, they then dance through the streets in a similar way to Foreday Morning, ending at the Spring Garden Highway. We didn’t take part, but we had a place at a ‘splash tent’ by the roadside – a fab area with seating, drinks and a great barbecue where we watched the bands parade past with their enormous music trucks.
We spotted Rihanna (and Lewis Hamilton, who I’m ashamed to say I didn’t recognise) and had the best fun ever. We were absolutely exhausted afterwards, but I just want to go back EVERY year, it’s so amazing.
Visiting Barbados (www.visitbarbados.org):
Virgin Atlantic flies once a day to Barbados from London Gatwick, and once a week from Manchester. Economy fares start from £457 including tax. For more information call 0844 2092770 or visit www.virgin-atlantic.com.
We stayed at the Sea Breeze Beach Hotel on an all-inclusive basis (www.sea-breeze.com). Rooms cost from $326 US (£208) per night based on two sharing a standard room.
This is the last in my Discovering Barbados series. Massive thanks to Kylie, Jacqui at the Sea Breeze Beach Hotel and beautiful Christal (below) and everyone from Barbados Tourism who looked after us. xx