Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Climaxes with a Big Bang!
By Toni Nicholas
The return of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival in 2023, was quite impressive to say the least. However, to say that the festival was without blemish, would be stretching it. As with any festival of this magnitude, hitches, expected and unexpected are inevitable. It is for those responsible, to own up to the errors, correct them in the future and build on the strengths of the event. Still, nothing should be taken away from the collaborative efforts of the entities and individuals involved in the return of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival. The Saint Lucia Tourism Authority, Events Saint Lucia and the Cultural Development Foundation, as well numerous service providers and volunteers, worked tirelessly to regain Saint Lucia’s status of being capable of staging world class events. Let us not forget too, the thousands of Saint Lucians, who were able to put aside political colour and turned out to attend not just the mainstage events- starting with Kingdom Night on Wednesday May 10, but also the grand opening at Marchand and the fringe events held across the island. It was as if Bob Marley had returned to command once more that we “forget our troubles and dance.” Even as I write, some are still dancing their way to the banks, including Saint Lucian performers and artisans, vendors, stage, sound and light providers, event décor providers, taxi operators and many others.
And while we await the official numbers, it is also safe to say that the number of visitors and nationals living overseas coming to Saint Lucia for the festival was also very impressive, leaving behind some foreign exchange and leaving with some great memories.
On Sunday May 14, (Mother’s Day) the festival ended with what was aptly dubbed “The Ultimate Celebration.” Sting and Shaggy’s riveting double crescendo, closed the festival to rave reviews from fans and the regional and international press.
British singer Sting, who rose to fame in the eighties with the band “The Police,” on Sunday performed hits like “Every Breath You Take,” and “Fields of Gold” which had the audience mouthing every word. And when Shaggy joined him to perform Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” the entire Pigeon Island was rocking away. Another memorable moment (and there were many) was Shaggy’s performance of “Strength of a Woman,” which stood as the ultimate Mother’s day song that evening.
Sunday’s event for many, brought back memories of when the festival turned twenty-five back in 2016. Incidentally, Shaggy and Kassav were part of the lineup back then, as well as Air Supply, Omi, Joey Alexander, Rick Braun, George Benson, Kool and the Gang, Irvin Ace Loctar and Ronald “Boo” Hinkson among many others. Both Loctar and Hinkson returned to the festival stage on Sunday, as well as two other wonderful Saint Lucian talents, Teddyson John and Barbara Cadet. They truly satisfied patrons with a blend of Jazz, R&B and Caribbean rhythms, infused with a Saint Lucian flavor.
While the crowd on that day was quite large, it was not as congested as the two previous days, allowing for a greater appreciation of the ambience, the food and drinks as well as the fashion of the day.
All in all, the return of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival scored some amazing highs. These included the opening night at the Mindoo Phillip Park, (check 758speaks for reviews), Kingdom Night with CeCe Winans, Sinach and Emrand Henry, Caribbean Fusion with Bunji & Faye Ann, and Buju Banton as well as Pure Jazz Night with Gustavo Casenave and Saint Lucia’s music icon Luther Francois.
Soufriere was able to stage a grand event with Patrice and Christopher Martin while Babonneau Jazz on their first outing, stood out as one of the best community events. Monchy’s good PR was able to lure the largest crowd into the community, for a night of homegrown talent, while another first, Junior Jazz at Serenity Park is another festival staple in the making.
As I close, my two cents to the organizers would include a call for another night of actual jazz, possibly featuring an international jazz vocalist or an old school R&B act with a catalogue. Also, as I’ve said before, less can be more, so don’t wear out patrons on the Saturday and Sunday with fillers. Four acts, including your headliner will suffice.
I know that there is an attempt to finally make the event profitable, however this should never be at the expense of the comfort of patrons or safety. And finally, yes the traffic and park and ride was not the most efficient over the last few days of the festival and need to be addressed. If it is any comfort, I have been to international festivals and events, where this is also problematic, particularly after the event. However, with the police and organizers coming to the table, a workable solution could be arrived at to mitigate the traffic issues. One suggestion is for the Darren Sammy Cricket grounds to be considered as a park and ride drop off and pick up point. Also, if the “regular” patron will be called upon to change their habits, so to the many who have these seemingly free for all vehicle passes and park closer to the venue. As they exit the event, this creates the bottle neck which impacts the ability of the shuttles to maneuverer to and from the venue.
2023 should not only mark the triumphant return of the Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival, but should also be a starting point where we begin to see ourselves as one community, working together to correct the mistakes, make this event better in the future and truly see the benefits to the country.