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BVI Festival 2014 – 60th Anniversary!


BVI Festival 2014 – 60th Anniversary – Celebrate!

Words by Kim Huish, Manager – Northcoast Ltd

Photography by David Thomas

If you haven’t had a chance to be on BVI Tortola for the first week of August, you will have missed one of the best ways to get right to the heart of the islands in the shortest time possible.

Over a 10-day period, you can find yourself immersed in the BVI culture of amazing music, great food, horse races, parades, and perhaps most importantly, a glimpse into Caribbean history.

The Festival is a true celebration and if you are here, try and fit in a moment at the Sunday Morning Well in Road Town – this year falling on August 3. This is where you’ll hear about the importance of this 60th year party and the Emancipation from slavery which occurred August 1 1834.





On that date, the excitement was so heartfelt and contagious, that once the proclamation was made public—according to popular folklore—everyone ran out of their homes in whatever state of dress or undress they found themselves. This is the origin of the Rise and Shine Tramp—often referred to as J’ouvert—which starts around 4:00am Monday morning and is a mix of street partying and battling of the bands.

Like many of the events spanning this period, you can enjoy things either as a spectator or as a participant. If you want to dance, bring your short shorts and a whole lot of energy. You can also simply watch and marvel at the stamina of the bands, who perform for hours live on the back of huge semi’s followed by their staunchest fans.

If you’re with BVIslanders, they will tell you that this should not be called J’ouvert, a word often heard on other Caribbean islands and which stems from the French ’jour ouvert’ meaning dawn or daybreak. The BVI have never been French.



To fortify yourself for all this activity, stop by the Festival Village in Road Town which officially opens July 28. Not only can you start to form your own opinions about who will be your favourite band as many of them will be on stage several evenings, you will also get the chance to sample amazing authentic local food at any number of booths.

This is a great place to see the many cultures that have come together to create our lovely BVI. Personal favourite dishes include Goat Water – a thick spicy stew, Johnny Cakes – sinful doughy savoury fried bread, and Patties – both baked and fried pastry goodies stuffed with beef, chicken or fish. There will almost certainly be a Guyanese booth too, so you can get your curry fix. Many booths serve practically 24/7 and the entertainment also often continues through the wee hours.

After the Rise and Shine Tramp, there is a brief moment to catch your breath. Then it’s off to the Parade Monday afternoon; also in Road Town, this year promises to be spectacular. The Troupes have been practicing their dance moves for months and their costumes are glittering feathery triumphs. The floats can be spotted getting decorated for weeks before their majestic appearance in the Parade, and there will be even more music than previous years.




Alongside the actual Parade, if you can brave the summer sunshine, you can also walk along the route to watch the secondary, more slowly moving passage of spectators. This too is usually a colourful array of all sizes and ages. Kids will be darting between their parents’ legs, teenagers will be strutting their stuff in the latest fashions, and you’ll also see the grandparents dotted along the route usually in the best strategic spots to stay cool and get well fed.

Things continue on Tuesday afternoon with the serious horse races, which happen at Sea Cows Bay. The more light-hearted version—the Donkey races—happen at Carrot Bay August 8. Many folks prefer the slightly more intimate events over at Carrot Bay, which include a torchlight procession, a fishing contest, and a pig roast as well as great music. The fashionistas though, will see and be seen on Tuesday at Sea Cows Bay, sporting heels so high they usually have an impromptu contest to see whose are the highest.



This year’s final blast is back in Road Town August 9 and if you haven’t managed to participate in everything else, this will give you a chance to end the party in style.

I know that the entire BVI joins us in hoping you get to be a part of this Diamond Jubilee Emancipation Festival.

Erin Paviour-Smith

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