FAS is off to a strong start for this year’s Reggae Festival. The usefulness of the Festival to tourism was also very visible on the Beach. The promoters of FAS continue to experiment with their formula to keep the public interested in and satisfied with their product.
This year, they added a regional deejay to the show’s line up and I think the crowd response has given the move a passing grade. Of course, I read the move as even more strategic coming as it does on the heels of DJ Puffy winning the world deejay championship. It is another example of FAS’ continued contribution to the development of a cultural industry across the region.
deejaying has become a growing and significant entertainment related product. As with many things, it feels like we are just willing to let the world lead us in the trend. However, FAS has now upped the ante for aspiring deejays from Barbados and the region by including a slot for visiting deejays in FAS produced shows.
This made me reflect on the Cultural Industries Bill that we passed with much fervour. How has it improved the people we are producing in the cultural industries? Are we actively redefining what are cultural industries in line with world trends or is it still Mother Sally and the Green Monkey? How are our educational opportunities changing to prepare students who can be integrated into the cultural industries?
I spent one solitary moment in the sand Sunday as the reggae intermingled with my chosen beverage. In that solitary moment, I realized that in my book, a cultural industries policy was seemingly not bearing tangible fruit at least three years after its introduction. After all I had said about a policy for sports just a few weeks ago in this same space, the sad truth is FAS and DJ Puffy, Stabby, Stiffy and the pool of Barbadian talent performing Sunday had really pulled themselves up independently of any real government structure.
So was it at the beginning of the Reggae Festival, well over ten years ago and so is it still. I am not saying that the Government does not support the Reggae Festival, I am sure it does. I am talking purely about talent infrastructure and what we are doing to increase and build out various cultural offerings. Some may even argue that this role is indeed for private sector interests like FAS and not government. I am not invested in any position; I simply want more national debate and policy positioning which seems to be assisting those already in the industry and those aspiring.
Notwithstanding, the Barbadian talent pool seemingly continues to grow. I was particularly impressed with the strides Stiffy Star Quality is making. His voice was clear, his repertoire of music is building and he works his crowd. Some even opined that he was good enough to headline the show. He is certainly working hard to deserve that chance.
Natalie, whom I affectionately call Nat, is also another interesting emergence to the Barbadian talent pool. Natalie has created a Crop Over offering out of what could have been first perceived as a negative encounter on Facebook. In doing that, she has highlighted a number of things which, to my mind, are noteworthy.
Firstly, we return to the point of the cultural industry and how we create opportunities. How do we tap into communities to find talent? Is there a serious mechanism? Natalie can at least hold a key and she dances as well. How could she have been given the musical opportunity she is now enjoying at a much earlier stage in her life? How would that have been transformative in her life?
Having not answered the question, Nat challenges us to deal with her as she now is. She seems to be boldly and comfortably offering adult entertainment services. She is forcing us to look up under the dirty national rug where we put the myriad issues we choose to overlook. Prostitution, although it happens very publicly in some cases across the island, is still a completely unregulated trade.
There were some efforts to formalize aspects of the exotic dancing sector by one of the owners but they seem to have fizzled. There is no international consensus on how prostitution is managed although some best practices have emerged. Even in countries where prostitution remains illegal, the health and well-being of those working in the sector are managed using health checks and access to related services.
There are charity operations and other lobby groups which keep the issues and needs of adult entertainment workers foregrounded. In the void around the issue in Barbados, Natalie has poised herself to start a discussion. I hope it is a rounded and serious discussion instead of a name and blame or fodder for religious zealots.
Should we legalize prostitution and other adult entertainment services in Barbados? What are the pros and what are the cons? How do we stand to assist most of the people involved in the sector and ensure their health and safety?
Natalie is here and she seems to have a following based on how she was received on the Beach. I hope we realize that she is a part of a very alive and growing culture in our country. It has germinated up out of years of generational poverty in some instances, lack of opportunity in others and the minibus and dancehall culture have more widely provided space for the culture to ferment.
Nat is very much now a part of the definition of what it means to be a Barbadian woman in some cases. That is not a point to scoff at or judge. It is simply as it is and as Nat would say – So what (now)?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full time mummy and part time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies.