May 14, 2021

Feeling the carnival spirit all over again [Cayman used as blueprint]

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By Nadia Hall From Royal Gazette

Jason Sukdeo wants Bermuda to feel the carnival spirit all year long.

There are about 8,000 people who’d likely agree. At least that many hit St David’s for Bermuda Heroes Weekend’s Parade of Bands last year.

A fête, an industry-led panel and a black-tie gala to get them revved up about BHW 2018 begins tomorrow.

“Participating in other carnivals and seeing how much fun people were having and the national pride that people carry with them — when you go to Trinidad carnival you see everybody’s flag in the air — that’s what I want to see for Bermuda and that’s what happened,” said Mr Sukdeo, founder of the annual event.

“We finish at Clearwater Beach, where you can see Bermuda’s beautiful ocean. When you get to the end, you’ll see people standing on the rocks with the water in the background. That’s the finish that people are posting on their social media accounts.”

The long-time DJ (D’General) and event organiser held the first BHW in 2015. He got hooked on the experience in Miami in 2005. He tried Trinidad the following year.

And then he travelled a lot. At carnivals in Barbados, the Cayman Islands, US cities and Toronto he “asked a lot of questions and made a lot of contacts”.

In the end, he used Cayman as his blueprint.

“A lot of research went into this,” the soca lover said. “Cayman’s population is similar to ours, the demographics are similar, there’s an expat culture as well as entertainment, so that was one carnival that was very helpful.

“I was able to get data, ask questions and find out what works and what doesn’t. Beginning a new carnival with all of these templates from around the world to work from, we realised that we should be able to make a carnival with very few challenges.”

What drove him, he said was “the joy and the happiness that I see people experience when they’re participating in a carnival”.

“There are people who enjoy carnivals and people who enjoy travelling to carnivals. They want to experience the same thing at home. Not only that, they want to invite people to their own country.”

About 736 tourists travelled to the island for BHW last year; 560 came in 2016, 172 in 2015.

“That’s the amount of visitors we can account for,” he said. “We know that there were more, but we have 736 names. It’s growing. For 2018, we’re targeting 1,000 visitors.”

According to Mr Sukdeo, police gave numbers of between 8,000 and 9,000 at the Parade of Bands last year; 4,000 people turned out for a live concert.

“That togetherness is really what pushed me to bring this to Bermuda, put a Bermuda twist on it and put some Bermuda flavour on it,” he said.

Five bands will showcase their looks on Sunday, two fewer than last year.

“We’re still trying to find the magic number that works,” he said. “You need sales to keep the band alive. In the past, we might start out with seven but end up with five or six on the road.”

With 54 listings in the carnival calendar on, it’s possible to spend an entire year enjoying them around the world, Mr Sukdeo said.

BHW organisers decided to hold the 2018 launch over a weekend to give carnival lovers another reason to come here.

Tomorrow’s panel will include artists, producers, costume designers and representatives from the Bermuda Tourism Authority.

With the theme #IAmBHW, people will personalise what BHW means to them in short videos on Instagram and Facebook.

Mr Sukdeo said: “International artists and DJs tell their story in two minutes — why they love Bermuda, why they love BHW, what they see in our events that sets us apart. They travel all over the world doing carnivals year-round, so what makes Bermuda special?

“Then we have the consumers. For them it’s a lot of fun, time to release stress and have a good time. Everybody has their own story. That helps us tell other people who haven’t been yet, about BHW.”

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