Barbados Events 2005

Sophie Lam looks ahead to a year of festivals, from gospel to horseracing

The prevalent sound of the island might well be calypso, but jazz comes a close second. The annual Jazz Festival regularly draws big names, who this year include Alicia Keys and Ellis Marsalis.

Barbados Jazz Festival, 10-16 January

The prevalent sound of the island might well be calypso, but jazz comes a close second. The annual Jazz Festival regularly draws big names, who this year include Alicia Keys and Ellis Marsalis. The programme brings together some of the world's most-recognised artists and explores the genre from Trad to Swing and just about anything in between. Other artists include saxophonists Gato Barbieri and Kenny Garrett, timbales player Tito de Gracia and New Age jazz pianist Keiko Matsui.

Concerts are held mainly during the evening, in venues across the island. Tickets cost anything from US$25 (£15) to US$100 (£59). Pre-booking is recommended. Further information: 001 246 437 4537; www.barbadosjazzfestival.com

Holetown Festival, 13-20 February

The Holetown Festival commemorates the landing of the first European settlers in Barbados, who arrived in Holetown on the island's west coast in February 1627. The town was originally named Jamestown after King James I of England who claimed the island as British two years previously, but the name was changed to acknowledge a tidal hole near the coast. The festival is now in its 27th year and has become a more touristy affair in more recent years, involving a week of street parades, concerts, historic tours, fashion shows celebrating Bajan culture and history. Festivities kick off at the Holetown Memorial and continue throughout the town. Most events are free; prices and times will be announced early this year. Further information: 001 246 467 7520; www.barbados.org/holetown.htm

Barbados Gold Cup Festival, 19 February - 5 March

Two weeks of festivities precede the highlight of the Barbadian horseracing calendar. They culminate with the prestigious Sandy Lane Gold Cup on 5 March at the Garrison Savannah. Horses from Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Martinique, the US and Canada all compete for a prize worth around £38,000.

The build-up to the event includes international polo tournaments, charity art auctions, celebrity dinners and cabaret shows, a fish fry, concerts and a charity golf tournament.

A lively street carnival is held in Bridgetown during the week and wagers are made the day prior to the race. Dates, times and prices will be announced in early February. Further information from the Barbados Turf Club: 001 246 426 3980; www.barbadosturfclub.com

Crop Over, 10 July - 1 August

The end of the sugar cane-cutting season is the biggest and most anticipated event in the Bajan culture calendar. The Crop Over festivities unfold over five weeks. The tradition dates back to the 18th century. However, as the industry declined, so did the festival until it ceased completely in the 1940s. It was revived in 1974 as a tourist attraction and today is a spirited celebration of Barbadian culture and music, with carnival processions, cane blessings and a food fair.

Look out for the Pic-O-De-Crop finals (a Calypso competition) and the crowning of the Calypso Monarch (the most productive cane cutter). Further information from the National Cultural Foundation: 001 246 424 0909; www.cropoverfestival.bb

GospelFest, 21-29 May

Another musical offering is GospelFest, which demonstrates the island's musical diversity and celebrates both international and local artists. This year's programme has yet to be announced, but visitors can expect to hear some of the best talent from around the globe during a week of concerts. The uplifting tradition of gospel music seems to have evolved in the US during the 19th century, although its exact origin has never been pinpointed. However, it wasn't popularised until the 1930s when Barbados was experiencing social upheaval, particularly within African-American communities, and it slowly began to be accepted in Pentecostal churches as a popular form of lyrical worship. Today its wide-reaching influence is proved by its appearance in chart music and even hip hop, and the Barbadian festival promises to represent forms both old and new. For information on venues, time and prices: 001 246 426 5940; www.barbadosgospelfest.com

Eat! Drink! Barbados!, October

Barbados is probably better known for its national drink, rum, than for its food, but this festival celebrates both, with nine days of cookery demonstrations, gourmet dinners and rum tastings. Bajan food features plenty of seafood, and specialities include barracuda and flying fish. The national dish is cou-cou, made from cornmeal and okra (right). For information on 2005 dates and prices: 001 246 422 0866; www.eatdrinkbarbados.com

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