Barbados’ Gifts: Sun, Sea, and Holders Performing Arts

Barbados’ Gifts: Sun, Sea, and Holders Performing Arts

If I weren’t blessed to live in Barbados, I’d visit.  I’d visit in late March when I could attend the Holders arts season. This year’s season began March 14, 2009; it runs until April 4.

Holders, known as “the West Indies’ premier performing arts event of the year,” features gifted artists from the world over performing opera, comedy, music, drama, and more.  It’s also known as “the biggest social event of the year” – but please don’t let this hold you back.

The magic of Holders lies in its special alchemy of glorious, intimate outdoor setting – courtesy Wendy Kidd, owner of Holders House; and elegant, eclectic programming by London-based Creative Director Stewart Collins.  From Pavarotti and Tim Rice to Second City Comedy and Mark Twain (really!), Holders is as much an asset to Barbados as its sparkling aqua sea.


Holders House in St James, Barbados, in the daytime. The arts festival is held beneath the stars.

Overlooking the famous Holders Polo Field in St James parish and the sea beyond that, Holders festival takes place under the stars on the grounds of the stunning 17th-century, six-acre Holders House plantation owned by Ms Kidd, doyenne of Holders arts festival (the house is also available for holiday rental).  (Ms Kidd is not the only visionary entrepreneur in the family:  her daughter Jodie Kidd is a top model in the UK and daughter Jemma Kidd the creator of Target’s new makeup line.)

What makes Holders festival so compelling?

First, the programming is so interesting that I can’t know in advance whether I’m likely to enjoy the evening – and so I have to go to everything.  Mr Collins has been quoted as saying that when he programs [a] festival, his goal is to “give people what they want but not what they expect.” Who’d know, for instance, that an evening with Bassekou Kouyate, playing an instrument called the ngoni, would astound and amaze?

“Bassekou” doesn’t roll off your tongue? Mine, either.  But this Malian musician and his group served up an evening as powerful as any musician’s.  The Guardian calls the music “both ancient and utterly contemporary; like some African answer to Hendrix.” When I returned home that night, I immediately downloaded the sensational album Segu Blue, featuring singer Amy Sacko (“Tina Turner of Mali” and Bassekou’s wife).

The second reason Holder compels is because even if I don’t care for a particular performance, it really doesn’t matter because the beautiful setting, intimacy, lovely climate, and great food and libations, ensure a great evening overall.

For instance, I did not care at all for the “Tribute to Frank Sinatra.”  I thought I would, but to me, Louis Hoover’s Sinatra shtick was reminiscent of boozy Las Vegas lounge acts I’ve unfortunately had the displeasure to stumble into.  I know I’m alone on this; everyone else seemed to love the guy.

Still, the evening was far from a bust for me for the joy of being there at all.

And the very next night I was delighted by actor Cal Pritner who channeled Mark Twain so brilliantly that I was reminded of a line in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that I looked up when I returned home, thinking it would be pertinent to this blog post.

And it is.  Tom Sawyer, wrote Twain, “had discovered a great law of human action … namely, in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.”

That’s right.  Barbados isn’t easy to get to.  And you have to get to Barbados in order to get to Holders.  Either or both being well worth coveting.

2 Responses to “Barbados’ Gifts: Sun, Sea, and Holders Performing Arts”

  1. Greg says:

    Brilliant post. Wonderful links. Bravo! And may we have some more, please?

  2. planetbarbados says:

    Greg, darling, everyone who reads my blog knows you’re my husband. 🙂 (I love you for supporting my efforts, though. Thank you.)

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