St. Lucia’s annual calendar is filled with vibrant festivals and events celebrating the island’s dual cultural heritage as well as international sporting competitions and artistic exhibitions.
Commended as the ‘Premiere Jazz Festival of the Caribbean’ and one of the top five jazz festivals in the world, the St. Lucia Jazz Festival is an island-wide celebration of music drawing visitors from across the globe. The festival’s music ranges from acoustic jazz and traditional rhythm and blues to new age jazz and eclectic fusion and features international performers as well as local favourites. Established in 1992, the festival is hosted each May at Pigeon Point National Park and features internationally-acclaimed performers from North and South America, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. The park provides an excellent setting for the two-day open-air concert where festival-goers are encouraged to bring picnics and other refreshment. In addition to the ticketed headline events, there are also the recently popular ‘fringe activities’ featuring favourite local performers and held free of charge at Jazz on the Square in Castries, where visitors and St. Lucians alike enjoy music by local and Caribbean artists while enjoying local delicacies and cold beverages.
The St. Lucia Carnival is an exciting and colourful festival celebrating the music and dance culture of the island. One of the festival’s main events is the Calypso Monarch competition, where over 120 calypsonians compete for the Monarch title. Established in 1975, the competition celebrates this unique style of music known for its social and political commentary. In 2001 the festival established a second Monarch competition focusing on Soca music, featuring a faster rhythm and party-themed lyrics. There is also a Junior Monarch competition, where students from over 40 schools compete for the Junior title. Both calypso and soca songs feature a mix of English and Patois lyrics, much like the daily dialect of the island.
During the final Carnival weekend when the winners of the music competition are selected, , Castries turns into a large street party, culminating in Jour Ouvert, a pre-dawn party where revelers are judged for best costume. The St. Lucia Carnival culminates with an exciting Road March, a parade featuring large masquerade (mas) bands of dancers, music and elaborately themed costumes. Established in 1969, the road march is a cultural event borrowed from neighbouring Trinidad and is similar to those found in other Caribbean islands. Bands compete to win King and Queen titles for their costumed leader as well as the prestigious Band of the Year title.
Influenced by a vibrant mix of French, African and native traditions, St. Lucia’s Kweyol or Creole culture gives the island a unique personality all its own. St. Lucia celebrates its rich heritage during Jounen Kweyol, an island-wide festival featuring craft exhibitions, musical performances and folklore events. Held in late October / early November, Jounen Kweyol is held on the Sunday closest to International Creole Day. Each year four communities are selected to host the festival events, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike during the month of October.
Festival goers enjoy local specialties such as fishcakes, bwapain woti (roasted breadfruit) and the national dish – green fig and salltfish; and enjoy exhibitions of old-time cricket (with slightly different rules than the modern game) and other traditional pastimes. Women wear the traditional jupe, a national costume featuring a colourful madras skirt, white lace blouse and a headpiece made of matching madras material.
Perhaps St. Lucia’s most notable Creole tradition is the Kweyol language, once considered a common vernacular but now an integral part of island life. On Jounen Kweyol, people may be fined for not speaking in the traditional Kweyol dialect.
Each autumn over 120 anglers from the Caribbean and North America participate in St. Lucia’s Bill Fishing Tournament. This three-day event has traditionally been based in Rodney Bay; however event organizers have recently relocated the tournament to the new Marina at Discovery, located in the stunning Marigot Bay on the west coast of the island and featuring state-of-the-art yachting facilities. The tournament is open to visitors, who may compete from chartered vessels or on their own deep-sea fishing boats. The tournament’s objective is to catch one of the legendary White Marlins weighing over 1,000lbs, and rules are very strict. During the tournament the St. Lucia Tourism Board offers special accommodation and activity packages for the anglers and their families.
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) is the world’s largest trans-ocean sailing event, attracting participants from the world over. Starting in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the ARC covers over 2,700 nautical miles before arriving in St. Lucia’s Rodney Bay Marina three weeks later. Since the first ARC in 1986, some 4,100 yachts and over 19,000 sailors have participated in the annual event, which has undeniably become synonymous with ocean sailing.
As the ARC fleet’s arrival draws near, St. Lucia comes alive with anticipation as it prepares to welcome the sailors to its shores. Celebratory highlights include a large welcome party and other special events for the sailors and their guests, culminating with the final prize-giving ceremony just four weeks after the start of the ARC.
British colonists introduced the West Indies to the game of cricket early in the 19th century. Originally a sport for the elite, cricket has fast become the favourite pastime of the Caribbean people. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the West Indies team achieved an unparalleled winning record with a number of internationally famous players known as some of the greatest cricketers of all time. Daily life comes to a halt when an international match is played and an impromptu game of beach cricket is a popular Sunday pastime.
The Beausejour Cricket Ground is an international facility located just outside Rodney Bay on the north-end of the island. Constructed on 22 acres with a seating capacity of 15,000 and well-appointed pavilion, the stadium played host to the International Cricket World Cup in 2007. Most St. Lucians are loyal West Indies fans and take the sport very seriously, while others attend the one-day matches simply for a chance to party and enjoy the entertainment at the Piton Beer Party Stand. The formal cricket season runs from March to August with informal matches held year-round.
The Heineken Kalalu World Music Festival highlights authentic African, Latin and Caribbean rhythms in an exciting four-day event attracting music lovers from around the world. Founded in 2005, Heineken Kalalu has quickly become an integral part of the St. Lucia events calendar. Held on the first weekend in December, Heineken Kalalu kicks off the official start to the island’s winter season. In addition to performances by world-class musicians and performers, the festival also features St. Lucia’s vibrant Creole culture, cuisine and art, creating a unique event unlike any other in the Caribbean. As the festival’s motto states: ‘Different beats, one vibe… Come taste the music!”
Just north of Castries is the little town of Gros Islet, a sleepy fishing community famous for its Friday Night Street Party, a popular attraction with tourists and locals alike. For over 20 years, the Gros Islet ‘jump-up’ has been St. Lucia’s most popular weekend party spot and a must-see for the island’s visitors. As evening sets, the streets of Gros Islet come alive as vendors set up their stalls and prepare barbeque chicken, grilled conch and other local delicacies and beverages for purchase. Local DJs and performing artists fill the air with the sounds of Caribbean music, and both locals and visitors dance the night away on the temporary dance floor constructed in the town’s crossroads. A unique part of St. Lucia’s island life, the Friday Night Street Party is a memorable experience not to be missed.
In recent years Anse La Raye, another small fishing village, has become popular for its weekly ‘Seafood Fridays’, where fisher wives prepare the day’s local catch and various performers provide live outdoor entertainment.
Tel: (758) 452 0280
UK: + 44 207 993 6156