I grew up in Barbados. For over 20 years surf, the beach and a relaxed way of life were key parts of my island life. But I always longed for more.
One of my first memories is of walking through the old Hilton hotel on our way from the beach. There was a public path back then. Walking under tall coconut trees adorned with coloured light bulbs as the sun set. Past the azure water, in the pool overlooked by a beach bar made of browned, fallen palm fronds. The whole setting like an excerpt from Wham’s Club Tropicana music video.
Growing up, my idealised view of surf life was like the American West Coast — white sand, big waves and guitars around a fire. I loved it and it’s possibly one of the things that made me sure of leaving it all behind for the UK. If I wanted to do the work that came with all those idealised views I’d created for myself, designing album covers and shooting music videos, then it meant moving somewhere where I could do that. In spite of everyone asking why trade the sun, sea and sand for grey skies and the cold, my mind was set. It’s only 10 years after that move, did I realise that for everything I had achieved working with MTV, Diesel and countless bands and musicians, I’d lost something much more.
Beyond the idealised visuals that brought me to the UK, there were other things I remembered and loved. Listening to calypso on the beach while roasting breadfruit in fire pits dug into the sand, the vibrancy of Crop Over, rum flying through the air in slow motion, as it jumped out of someone’s glass onto sticky tarmac, and sitting in packed ZR vans with dancehall pounding through the back of your chest. I’d forgotten how much I love our culture.
Life in Barbados was about enjoying life and making use of what you had around you. Just about everyone had a fruit tree in their backyard. In the UK just having a backyard would be nice and life had definitely become more fast-paced.
Mr Blackman’s was definitely an opportunity to reconnect with and highlight that culture, but I also started making more time to cook some old home comforts. Fry fish, macaroni pie and mauby are already a given. Some roast breadfruit would be good, but finding some hasn’t been easy. In addition, every day we have Slam FM radio on in the office. Listening to Salt and DMZ, you often forget you are in the UK! Hearing Bajan voices in daily conversation about what is happening around the island, the events happening at the weekend and all the new music coming out by the likes of Teff Hinkson, Leadpipe, Lil Rick and King Bubba (to name a few), you even forget it’s frosty outside!
Seeing what is coming out of my island being shared by creatives across Instagram makes you do nothing but smile and living in a time where, despite the distance, I’m able to work with some of those creatives on things we do for Mr Blackman’s is even better.
Of course, it’s not the same as being there. Much of it requires a mindset of knowing that my culture wasn’t lost. It just needed remembering. I’z a Bajan. Bajan fuh life. But if you do know of anywhere to get fresh breadfruit do let me know.
Originally written for The Pitch Fanzine