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A celebration of Grenada's people

RUNNING RINGS ROUND THE REST: Former footballer and BBC pundit Jason Roberts MBE (left) congratulates Kirani James, Grenada’s only gold medal-winning athlete, on his 400 metre win at London 2012

SUGAR-SOFT white sandy beaches, the sweet aroma of spices in the breeze and rum too strong to take on a plane are just some ideas that spring to mind when you mention Grenada.

But why aren’t the robust people of the independent tri-island state – Grenada and sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique – recognised as much for their impact on the world as for their warm hospitality?

This summer, BBC1 series Who Do You Think You Are? traced the Caribbean forebears of actor, writer and director Noel Clarke whose family tree journey took him to Grenada and Carriacou. The stark shock of slave heritage – in the grand scheme of things, not that long ago – brought home to Clarke just how far he, his mother and her family had come. Visibly moved, the TV star spent time with Grenada’s own ‘Indiana Jones’, Telfor Bedeau – a newly-discovered close relative – before travelling over to Carriacou and finding the plot his free landowner ancestors owned and treasured. He bumped into quite a few new cousins along the way, too.

12 Years A Slave director, Steve McQueen, shot his famous 2002 short film, Carib’s Leap, in Grenada – from where his parents immigrated to London – and the story of the untimely death of his subject, a local fisherman known as Ashes, was told in McQueen’s acclaimed video installation first seen at the 2015 Venice Biennale and more recently at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.


A CELEBRATION OF HERITAGE: A reveller at Grenada’s Spicemas festival

For those in the UK fortunate enough to call Grenada ‘home’ – whether it’s their own birthplace, their parents’ or grandparents’ – there are yet more famous names and faces that inspire pride.

Most remember Kirani James and his London 2012 triumph, claiming the first Olympic Gold medal for ‘the Spice of the Caribbean’ and securing a place in posterity, not least now that the island’s main stadium bears his name. Celebrating that victory on Grenada was another speed legend, Lewis Hamilton, whose connections to Grenada meant he was holidaying there as Kirani seized the gold in the UK.

Jason Roberts MBE, former professional footballer and now pundit, is frequently seen at Grenada’s Maurice Bishop International Airport, where he now spends 90 per cent of his time. Establishing the Jason Roberts Foundation at the age of just 29, Roberts has remained unerring in his vision of “working to support young people, celebrate diversity and promote respect across the UK and Grenada”.

Each summer, a team of dedicated volunteers jets over to the UK from Grenada, accompanying fragrant orchids and fragile heliconia, destined for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. The ‘all-Grenadian’ team earned its 13th Gold Medal at the world’s greatest flower show this year and included in the award-winning design was a heliconia named for Johnson Beharry VC.

Born in Grenada and awarded the Victoria Cross – the UK’s highest military decoration – in 2005 for “repeated extreme gallantry and unquestioned valour” while on active service in Iraq, the vibrant blooms are a vivid reminder of Beharry and his bravery.

Often, the decedents of the people of the tri-island state feel like they are coming home, even if it’s their first visit. Whether it’s the beaches, limes or fetes that linger in the imagination once back in the UK, it will always be the family vibe that live longest in the memory.

British Airways has linked the UK to Grenada for 30 years and offers two flights each week, as does Virgin Atlantic. See http://www.puregrenada.com for more.

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