BARBADOS IS ready tfor the greatest homecoming celebration in the history of the Caribbean. In 2020, Barbados will be throwing its arms open to the world.
All Barbadians by birth, descent and choice are invited to a year-long get-together, so they can rediscover their roots, enjoy the best of what the island has to offer and build a deeper connection with Barbados.
The ground-breaking initiative, We Gatherin’, started earlier this month and over 12 months, will feature a host of events to mark this momentous homecoming festival for the Barbadian diaspora across the world.
Britons of Barbadian descent – and seasoned British visitors who might consider the island a spiritual home – are encouraged to visit over the course of the year and, together with the locals, celebrate what makes Barbados uniquely special.
Earlier this year, The Prime Minister, The Hon. Ms. Mia Motley, issued a personal invitation to people across the world with Bajan roots, to their families, friends, and to regular visitors who simply love the Bajan spirit, asking them to return, reconnect and reaffirm their affinity with the island’s people and values as part of her government’s Vision 2020 initiative. It will be the largest, single cultural heritage festival the region has ever seen.
We Gatherin’ will shine a spotlight on the Barbados brand globally, showcasing the island as a global hub for premier events and festivals, while reinforcing its position as a destination for all visitors which offers world-class, authentic tourism experiences.
Barbados shares a particular and historic relationship with the UK, which is evident in its Anglophone place names, its red post boxes in Bridgetown, and the portrait of The Queen which greets visitors at Grantley-Adams airport. In the Caribbean diaspora of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of emigrants left Barbados to help rebuild post-war Britain and their families have played an important role in the fabric of modern British life since.
Famous Brits of Bajan descent include former England international footballer, Ashley Cole; veteran newsreader, Moira Stuart; poet, Benjamin Zephaniah; DJ, Carl Cox; former boxer, Nigel Benn; and singers Des’ree and Shaznay Lewis of pop band All Saints.
Close cultural ties are also reflected in the number of British tourists escaping to Barbados across the year. Visitors from the UK account for the largest number from any country and it is estimated that several thousand Britons have second homes or business interests on the island.
Broadcaster and newsreader, Moira Stuart, whose father is from Barbados said, “I feel incredibly proud of my Bajan heritage and I am really excited to be supporting this initiative to celebrate Bajan culture and bring the extended Bajan community back together. Barbados and the UK share a special history and I feel very privileged to be part of that.”
British-Bajan actor, David Harewood said: “My Bajan heritage is very important to me and the island will always hold a special place in my heart as my wife and I got married there.
“I look forward to returning to Barbados next year to join the homecoming festival and enjoy the unique Bajan culture, food and music.”
It is hoped that by reengaging with those who have Bajan heritage, family ties or those who may call Barbados a home from home, those returning will foster a closer relationship with the island and play an active role in shaping the country’s future.
CEO of the BTMI, William ‘Billy’ Griffith said: “We Gatherin’ is a moment for Barbados to share its story of progress with the world and build a renewed, global community of Bajans.
“We have a special bond with the UK, and we invite the British to join and celebrate with us in 2020, and experience a Barbados which is proud, caring, industrious and has a tradition of excellence. Whether you have roots in Barbados but have lost touch with your family, or you simply love the island and its many attractions, we would like you to pay us a visit next year and enjoy the welcome of a lifetime, Bajan style”.
Spearheaded by the prime minister, We Gatherin’ will showcase Barbadian excellence in all areas from sports, heritage, entertainment, culture, business and commerce. It will include large scale events at national level, but local communities and businesses will also play an important
The initiative starts in the north of the island in St. Lucy and will move southward every month allowing each of the 11 parishes to host its own homecoming celebrations showcasing the highlights, cuisine and attractions for which it is renowned.
British-Bajans and friends of Barbados who wish to get involved in We Gatherin’ should first book their ticket to return in 2020. Upon arrival, they will be extended an invitation to attend community, national and niche events including sporting competitions, faith-based, cultural, entertainment events and more.
There are numerous ways visitors in 2020 could plan their trip to make the most of this momentous occasion. For example, visit their old community, school, church and reconnect with friends; plan a family reunion; trace their family genealogy at the Barbados archives or one of the genealogy market places which will be held in all 11 parishes; participate in the national tree planting campaign by purchasing and planting a fruit or shed tree; or simply identifying and sharing stories of Barbadians who have achieved excellence in their professional careers. That’s not to mention visiting the myriad and varied attractions of the island and having the opportunity to make new friends with shared heritage and interests.
The centrepiece of the year-long programme of events will be in December 2020 when the whole nation will come together with visitors to celebrate the culmination of We Gatherin’ at a grand Bajan Christmas festival in Queens Park.
The event will feature music and entertainment lead by the Royal Barbados Police Band, a fashion parade, food, drink and attendance of familiar Bajan celebrities.
The Barbados Hospitals Project is the primary legacy initiative of We Gatherin’ and intended to support the Barbados healthcare system. Visitors who wish to donate to this worthy cause may contact the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Echoing its commitment to a sustainable future, the government will also launch a national tree planting initiative committed to planting one million trees across the island.
This project aims to bring back indigenous trees to Barbados, promote plant and animal biodiversity and sustainable ecosystems, reducing carbon emissions and providing canopy cover in urban areas to reduce heat.
Those unable to make a trip to Barbados in 2020 need not lose hope! Events and activities will also be taking place in the UK to coincide with those in Barbados and several of the key, national events will also be live streamed online. A full schedule of UK events will be announced in the coming months.