Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by this author are their own and do not represent the official position of the Barbados Today.
by Vincent “Boo” Nurse
Barbadians who have lived in the United Kingdom in great numbers since the early 1960’s have, until recent years, been without a platform from where they could easily interact and share a common bond of nationalism.
This void had gone unfilled until a daughter of the soil, Catherine Rock, decided that she should address and remedy the situation.
Catherine was born in 1973 in Liverpool, the daughter of Kenneth Rock and Marcia Batson of Alkins Land, Eagle Hall, St Michael.
She lived in Barbados during her formative years and returned to the UK in 1993 after attending The Alexandra School in St Peter.
Ever a student of ambitious intent Catherine pursued her tertiary studies at Metropolitan University in London and gained an Upper Second Class honours degree in Business Marketing.
After early employment in tele-sales Catherine moved to the housing department at the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Catherine has in recent years developed a very high profile within the Barbados diaspora in the UK, so I spoke to her about her meteoric success in building channels through which Barbadians could express and share their views on subjects that were trending on the island.
Catherine’s organisation is titled ‘Bajans in London’ and was founded in 2007. So, what is it that took her into unknown territory?
Let Catherine pen her story: “At that time I did not know any Bajans in our community and I yearned to do so.
I was missing people from my diaspora, so I opened a page on social media, and I invited fellow Bajans to join me.”
And the response, I asked. She said: “It was electric. Soon friends recommended other friends and currently the members count is 5,000.”
I was amazed to find that beneath the surface in the UK there is an organisation that has attracted such a large number, and I wondered whether or not it is merely a talking shop.
Catherine answered emphatically: “In addition to facilitating normal chat amongst members ‘Bajans in London’ provides a hub for advertising of Bajan products, promotion of job opportunities, a facility to purchase authentic Bajan items and, most importantly, it provides a free platform to promote Bajan-owned businesses.
All these things can be accessed through our website at www.bajansinlondon.co.uk. All in all, we act as an advertising agency for all things Bajan.”
I suggested that there seemed to be great merit in the ideals and aspirations of the group, but I had to know how did the organisation compare to the international body LinkedIn.
She said: “’Bajans in London’ is completely different and bears no relation to LinkedIn.
We carry a personal and intimate stamp to our organisation.” And I pressed: How is the operation managed, what checks and balances are there with regard to what is put on the page? Catherine said: “There are other administrators and we daily monitor the input from our members.
We have strict rules regarding content, and we will not allow comments that border on the libellous and salacious.”
The work of this budding entrepreneur is remarkable, and a database of Barbadians in the UK is held. Catherine said that she is mindful of the legal constraints in the data protection law but the information could be available to the appropriate authorities.
And how does Catherine see the future as it relates to ‘Bajans in London’? She said: “As an extension to ‘Bajans in London’ I am a founder member of the organisation ‘Barbados Heritage UK’ and as the name implies we seek to hold the history of our heritage before our people of all generations.”
Moving swiftly on to the febrile situation that currently exists in Barbados today as a result of
COVID-19 I suggested that, given the great number of contributors to her medium she would be in a good position to give an informed view regarding opinions of Barbadians in the UK.
Catherine said: “Most subscribers feel that in the current circumstances the food and welfare programmes are excellent ideas and further efforts to help and sustain the less fortunate of our people must be encouraged beyond any boundaries.
I have found that opinions on whether or not the vaccine should be taken are evenly split and many are displaying a policy of ‘let us wait and see’”.
Rock’s efforts in bringing common and yet separate Bajan voices together should be highly commended and I wish her further success.
Vincent “Boo” Nurse is a Barbadian living in London who is a retired land Revenue Manager, Pensions and Investment Adviser. He is passionate about the development of his island home and disapora.