Reggae and our tourism
The FAS Entertainment Reggae Festival got off to an amazing start for 2016. I had never gone to the beach aspect of the festival before, and decided I would try it this year. I happen to appreciate the music of Alkaline, even if his style is somewhat edgy.
Come to think of it, Alkaline is a Caribbean Prince. His dress style and lyrics are quite distinctive and he pushes boundaries set by the society in which he performs.
Aren’t those things we are now glorifying America’s departed Prince for?
We are better in the Caribbean at accepting the princes of other societies, but when we ourselves produce them, then we are as harsh and unimpressed as we ever can be.
Dexta Dapps has quite a range of voice, and although Spice, in my opinion, was the weak link in the line-up, she gave a relatively fair representation of at least two of her hits.
Ken Boothe and Half Pint presented Vintage Reggae patrons with a memory feast while Freddie McGregor and Richie Spice claimed the Hill.
The festival is akin to a religious revival for me. Reggae is a significant part of my life, and FAS manages to present a top-rated slate
of artistes for the festival each year.
There seems to be a little bit of tweaking to be done with the VIP food stations and the lines to be served food and beverage, but the line-ups at the shows continue to be
I look forward to the festival having acts from the international arena, as promotor Al Gilkes hinted should be the case in the future. However, I hope they are added to other nights of the festival to truly build out a solid week of activities. The offerings developed thus far should be preserved as they are, because they work –– it is not broken and it should not be fixed.
Spoken word and chant poetry could also perhaps be explored for their potential. They are especially big in Diasporic America and Afro-America. Perhaps spoken word and chant poetry could be other attractive components for travellers to the festival.
On the point of tourism, we highlight every year that the festival is a means of significant regional and international tourism. How we like to talk in my sweet island! What is the sense of inviting people to Barbados if we are not committed to ensuring the infrastructure is adequately maintained?
The roads in Barbados are in an atrocious state. One of the roads most traversed by tourists, Highway 1 (from Esso at the bottom of University Hill to Speightstown), is a complete challenge to drive on.
The road has several humps and ditches where the road surface seems to be affected by some kind of erosion. There are also sections where the surface of the road is falling into potholes. There are at least two multimillion-dollar Government road repair initiatives which have been announced. I do not remember hearing Highway 1 has been earmarked for attention.
Another factor which must be considered when we discuss tourism in Barbados is the prison releases which are currently occurring. There has been worthwhile discussion about elements of the releases.
Many individuals question the reason for prison and advance justifications for the release of former inmates. Victims’ families and concerned community members have also vocalized their concerns; but nothing about tourism has been mentioned.
Barbados has built, as a part of its brand, a reputation for safety. People are encouraged to come to Barbados because they can move freely around the country with low risk of experiencing crime. The point I am making is not that former inmates will attack tourists; the point is about how our release system stands to change the perception of Barbados.
Several tourists are accustomed to a prison release and reintegration programme in the jurisdictions where they travel from. However, they are also accustomed to a penal system which has a holistic approach to reintegration. There are psychological evaluations for former inmates, there is training in reintegration before prisoners actually leave the penal facility.
In some overseas cases, there are special communities established where former inmates live supported by each other. Registers are created for certain types of offenders and these can be accessed by the general public.
It is unclear if we have any of these components in place in our own prison release programme. If there is no sense that the process is being managed, the reputation of Barbados as a destination lies in the balance.
It is no secret our court system is badly broken. It is very disappointing that we see the solution to be releasing alleged murderers on bail instead of working to create a more effective turnaround time. If we can release from prison those inmates charged with murder, every individual who has been charged with a weed-related matter should be out of jail.
If we are going to start a prison release and reintegration programme, it makes sense to start with non-violent offenders first. There also has to be attention paid to ensuring inmates are supported with finding employment, housing and other necessities so they become productive and truly integrated members of society.
With social media taking messages to the four corners of the Earth, I believe the unwillingness to answer the questions about our reintegration exercise is detrimental.
Tourism is a delicate basket in which we have placed all our eggs. There is no allowance for error. It is obvious the sugar industry is in intensive care, bedded next to our economy. What we are reaping as a crop this year is a far cry from anything we have ever produced hitherto.
The canes more resemble grass than any other canes in living memory. When they are being harvested, there is not even the sweet smell of their contents wisping in the air, which country dwellers have experienced over the years.
We never really connect the dots in Barbados, and so we never really find full solutions, or really even define full problems. These were my musings as I listened to the sweet reggae music and watched people bubbling on the beach.
Producers and entrepreneurs can grow successful tourist options such as the Reggae Festival has become, but then it takes Government facilitation in terms of national infrastructure to really maximize the potential of the events. We continue to act as though Barbados has all the time in the world.
I wonder if it really does.
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.