Junkanoo Group Ends Junkanoo Tour with a Bang

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Quentin ‘Barabbas’ Woodside picks up yet another fan in Hastings, United Kingdom, on July 19, 2008.  Whenever he led a parade during the Junkanoo tour of England, Barabbas stole the show and had people coming just to see him perform.

HASTINGS, United Kingdom — The old historical town of Hastings was the last town in the United Kingdom that got a taste of the baseline Junkanoo tour that started July 3, 2008.

Tom Horrigian and his father, John, raved about the performance of the group of 33 Junkanoo artisans and performers who closed out the Leonard’s Festival, Saturday, July 19, 2008.

“It put a smile on my face, which will last a long time,” Tom said.

His father added, “St. Leonard’s was lit up tonight for the first time.  I have never seen anything like this before, and I have lived here for a long time.  So, thanks to all the people involved in organising it and I hope to see it again.”

Mandy Curtis, an organiser of the event and an owner of the company, 36 Hours, which was responsible for managing the Junkanoo Group while on tour, explained that the festival is in its third year.  Hastings is known for being an area connected with the Norman Conquest of England.

Mrs. Curtis said, “The idea has been to raise the profile of the area. The festival was created to show that the area is a vibrant community and it is changing; it is a diverse community.”

The group also performed in the afternoon with students who participated in an exchange and residency programme in April, when a group of the Junkanoo Artists went to the Isle of Wight (IOW) to conduct workshops.

The Arts Council of England have sponsored both trips and Quentin ‘Barabbas’ Woodside and Angelique McKay, project manager for both initiatives and manager of the National Junkanoo Museum of The Bahamas played instrumental roles in getting both initiatives off of the ground.

Partnering with the Council is the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and British restaurateur and frequent visitor to The Bahamas Ms. Zena Burland.

Ms. McKay said five of the students who attended the workshops in April are a part of the Leonard’s Festival.  She explained that the students wanted to showcase what they learned.  So that was one of the reasons why the group decided to perform in Hastings.

“Julian was one of the drummers that was part of the Master Drumming Class,” Ms. McKay said.  “He had a group of children he taught some of the Junkanoo drumming leads to and they performed with us, with The Bahamas flag on all of their drums.”

Jenny, another student from the Master Artists Building class performed in an off-the shoulder costume, while her daughter performed in a smaller version.

Ms. McKay explained the set up for the Leonard’s Festival.

“I would compare the Hastings festival more like a Shirley Street performance because people had freer access to the performers.  The stewards had kind of a challenge opening the crowds wide enough for us, but we understand that because Junkanoo is something new and foreign, on top of being extremely spectacular.

“It was fun watching the crowds swoop in and cameras line the entire route of the parade.”

“The word ‘Bahamas’ resonates throughout this community right now.”

Ms. McKay added, “The good thing now about it is now there is such a large group of nationalities in this particular town; so we get to let a lot of people see a big case of the culture of The Bahamas.”

Gavin and his friend Howard followed the group across the United Kingdom and passed out Bahamian flags at the performances.  They made it a point to go to the last performance and felt they had a pulse on what the crowds were thinking and feeling.

“People wonder when they are going to be performing next and when are they going to be coming back,” explained Gavin, whose family originated from Grenada.

“That is what people want to know because they enjoy it.  I think they want to see more and they want to know more.  So with a bit more promoting, they could go quite far over here and they could have regular shows every year.”

Howard added, “I do not know if they know 100 per cent the history of Junkanoo but maybe if they knew a bit more about the effort that got put into making the music and the costumes, they might appreciate it a bit more.

“They have a lot of questions – they wonder a lot.  People always want to know where they are from.  It’s a different vibe for them.”