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Fetes bring culture alive

Michelle Springer

Fetes bring culture alive

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Night life during this year’s Crop-Over Festival is busier than it has ever been. There is no doubt an increase in fêtes and limes on this year’s party calendar, which some stakeholders say is contributing to the season’s and Barbados’ overall cultural development.Recently, queries have been raised on the call-in programmes about whether these parties are indeed adding to the festival and the industry as a whole.On any given night during the week, there are events put on by Wadadah, Norsemen, Berger Boyz, Brewster’s Road Crew, Plantations Garden Theatre, Party Animalz and Scrawl Up, Power X 4, Passion Network Inc., Kings and Queens, to name a few.  Some promoters of nightly entertainment consider that these fêtes have a larger role to play in developing the domestic economy and forging community ties.  One popular party group, The East Coast Limers (ECL) made their debut promoting pre-Crop-Over limes just before the start of the official season.  A founding member, Fidel Holder, had a background in organising old-fashioned bus excursions for community members, in the Bajan tradition, specifically for the Party Monarch competition with another association called the Beer Lime Crew. The group was responsible for catering, transportation, bar and toilet facilities for that event.Weekly camaraderieHe told the SUNDAY SUN that the East Coast Limers, so named after this tradition, were developing this custom with their Sunday evening limes, where friends reunite on a weekly basis during the season in the spirit of camaraderie.This is part of a current trend that sees the weekly fêtes being held by groups of friends who either went to school together and have maintained friendships or who knew each other socially and have maintained those ties.Baje International started out in this vein in the 1990s, and today the tradition is continued by Brewster’s Road Crew, Passion Network Inc., and Party Central, among others. One constant element among the newer groups and which they shared with the Sunday Sun, is the respect they show for each other’s event by coming out and supporting them.Scrawl Up, whose Saturday night limes in an auto-body mechanic’s garage which developed from a group of friends has now been opened to the wider community.Rodney Mason, one of the group, said that while they did not have any sponsorship they were continuing to provide entertainment through old-fashioned means.“We don’t have to pay for the venue since it belongs to one of the guys in the group. For everything else, we put together our own money to pay for drinks, deejays and so on, to make sure our friends have a good time,” he said.Strengthening community ties also overlaps into the informal business sector and boosts revenue for ECL and similar companies which have developed into fully-fledged entertainment entities, having created niche markets in popular culture events.Holder said: “We are responsible for about 20 per cent of the posters from events you see advertised on [] and BlackBerry Messenger. We have a roster with about 30 bartenders, and we also have deejays on roster.  “We’re a full package,” he said, pointing out that ECL was a year-round event-planning group that would take care of marketing for both large and small businesses. The fêtes also create business for other smaller entities,” Holder added.Some like Passion Network use the popularity gained from fêtes to fund and launch their community outreach programmes.Chetwyn Stewart of Power X 4, one of the most experienced fête promoters on the scene, believes that weekly fêtes create a release from pressure for people stressed by the current economic climate.With 16 years’ experience staging band fêtes, he has seen that more people patronise the parties when they are economically depressed.He said: “People are definitely coming out this year. But it’s like a release for them. The more hard times there are, the more people will party.”Stewart added: “All these events make the festival what . . . . Different people look forward to having different experiences during Crop-Over.”
He further indicated that there was entertainment for people of varying ages and tastes.
The fêtes, Stewart said, also helped to enhance the tourism product. He spoke about his band having 400 overseas members flying in for the event. Similarly, Baje International reported an additional two sections for their outfit with revellers from Trinidad and Tobago.“Our members who come in from Trinidad tell me that while Carnival for them is grander, they have a wider experience coming to Crop-Over,” Stewart said. He also noted that there were patrons who were not interested in “jumping” for Grand Kadooment but who looked forward to partying and celebrating every week during the festival, and the fêtes provide that alternative for them.Help the recessionHolder, like Stewart, also pointed to ways in which the packed party calendar could benefit the tourism sector.“To my knowledge Crop-Over is one of the biggest money-making events for Barbados . . . with the encouragement for tourism development. The increase in events not only makes Grand Kadooment a wonderful day but also encourages visitors to come in and stay longer,” Holder added.Stewart also added that, handled properly, the Crop-Over Festival could be used to help bring Barbados out of the current recession, especially as it was recently reported that the island’s recovery rate is expected to be slower than previously anticipated.Corporate communications specialist for the National Cultural Foundation, Wayne Simmons, emphasised there were several cultural events outside the fêtes to engage people during Crop-Over. However, he agreed that the fêtes helped to reunite some elements of the local society.“For a society such as Barbados, which is a fractured society, whether determined by classism or even which school you went to, Crop-Over is a great [reuniting agent]. During Crop-Over, everyone comes together. For a period, everyone is equal and Barbados seems unified.” Simmons also highlighted the opportunities for enterprising endeavours the season afforded for artistes as well as for the informal sector.