Minister of State for Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard said The Bahamas can be marketed as more than a place where visitors can experience sun, sand and sea, noting that packages can be offered for tourists to come and enjoy the major Junkanoo parades, the Junkanoo summer festival, or community festivals that highlight the art form.
He said this feature is a direct result of the trip taken by a 33 member Junkanoo group, which took England by storm as they performed at various festivals and conducted workshops, July 3 – 21.
They performed in the Isle of Wight (IOW), Henley, Little Chalfont, London and the historical town of Hastings.
“This trip,” Mr. Maynard said, “has tantalised the taste buds of a whole new category of people who up to this point knew very little about The Bahamas.”
He said by the types of questions the Junkanoo troop received about The Bahamas, many individuals still know very little about the country despite the fact The Bahamas has been marketing itself for many years.
Mr. Maynard also noted that there have been a number of cultural exchanges this year which he believes have proven to be very lucrative for the country. He said however that it is impossible for the government to fund such projects year-round without help from other sectors of the society.
“But you know it is one of things where we have to start it first; we have to prime the pump, and so I think a lot of partners in the tourism industry could be sold now to the idea that it is something worth supporting.”
Mr. Maynard added that as a result of the visit to London there are offers from France and Italy to participate in some of their festivals, and there are also plans for Junkanoo to return to the United Kingdom next year.
The Arts Council of England sponsored the trip and Quentin “Barabbas” Woodside and Angelique McKay, project manager for both initiatives and manager of the National Junkanoo Museum of The Bahamas both played an instrumental part in getting both initiatives off of the ground.Partnering with the Council was the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and a private donor.
Ms. McKay said the trip more than lived up to her expectations. “One of the things I found,” she said, “was as the group performed more and more, they got to feed off the energy and excitement of the crowd – the music got tighter and tighter.
“They started even doing routines with their performances; so it has lived far beyond what I expected it would be.”
The project manager added, “We expect we will be invited back to everyone of the festivals we participated in as well as other festivals that would have had hey persons attend the various festivals and see what it is that we do as it relates to the Junkanoo performances.
“So we expect that invitations will come by leaps and bounds.”
Ms. McKay explained that the Minister of State for Culture always talks about Junkanoo artisans and performers being able to make a living out of the Junkanoo art form.
“We have representatives in both A and B categories across the board in various sections and you would have heard the nay-sayers saying that ‘you selected this person, they are not the best in their particular area’.
“But you know it is not only those that are the best,” she said. “It is persons who you know could follow certain rules and understand the role they play within a group.”
Barabbas had the task of choosing the Junkanoo performers and artisans who went to the UK.
He said the trip was really hard on the Junkanooers. “It was very hard on the brass lips and hard on the fingers of the drummers and cowbells; the costumes had a rough time.
“If I was a millionaire, I would give each of them a million dollars because they really deserved it.”
He explained that news travelled swiftly in the areas where the group performed, so people turned up in droves.
As a result, Barabbas said, “I think we opened the gates. People are going to be looking for Junkanoo.
“They are going on the Internet trying to find out how they can get this Junkanoo. Be ready, because we have been promoting it as Bahamas/Junkanoo. So other groups will have an opportunity like I have now.”