Captain’s log 01: I have landed on the island of “red gums and white teeth” safely from a great metal sky bird. Everything is as beautiful here as I remember. The colours, the smells, the warmth…
Nah, all jokes aside, if you didn’t know, I ran away to Barbados. Well, more accurately I ran back to Barbados and I didn’t run alone.
I took an idea with me.
This crazy little notion that I had, to start a prototype of a company I worked for in Birmingham. That company, Beatfreeks, and that prototype, Beatfreeks Barbados (BFB) have dominated my every waking minute. Since my mind often has conversations with itself, I will attempt to, not only fill you in on what I have been up to, but also chronicle what I hope to achieve, add a dash of why I want to do it, and an incy bit of how, through an interview with myself.
So first thing first, what is Beatfreeks Barbados?
BFB is a project and movement that hopes to enable young people (16-25) to create their own spaces and unleash their creativity. We want to achieve this by offering artistic development and performance opportunities for young people. Those opportunities will come from partnering with businesses who can benefit from creative youth consultation and co-creating campaigns, events and programs with the young people interested in a multitude of art forms including: music, poetry, drama, dance, and media.
All in all, BFB wants to redefine the cultural understanding of what it means to be a Caribbean creative by making more accessible avenues for talented young people.
So wait? Why do we want to do this? Surely there are plenty of opportunities for young people to get involved in? National festivals, churches, schools, camps, all that kind of stuff.
Well, yes, as an introduction to a child’s creative potential, schools, churches and camps are perfect. But in regards to offering professional development to those of the 16-25 demographic it gets a little bit more complicated.
I mean, of course there is the annual Crop Over festival, and the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts that provide platforms for cultural displays of talents but those are only two programs that happen once a year. What else is an artistic young person supposed to do in that time?
You can’t just shut off the creative part of your brain when it’s no longer “in season”.
So we need to be able to facilitate for performances to be sustained and supported all year round.
Additionally, in Barbados, aged 15-25 is the third largest demographic in the country but in the academic year of 2014-2015 tuition fees at the local University of the West Indies were introduced to National citizens. And yes, I know many countries have had it’s students paying for higher education for their entire existence, but this is a recent introduction, and has put a six to ten thousand dollar lock on the gate to many young people’s futures.
Not to mention the problems of youth unemployment rates that the Caribbean region faces. Or the struggle that comes with parents who do not consider “becoming an artist” as a feasible career path.
With all of this, is there any surprise when youth violence and disruption spikes across the island? Then let us find ways to enable the youth to build into themselves and the industries they care about.
And how exactly, do you plan to do that?
I believe what we need is a creative youth uprising.
A movement. A peaceful rally for, with and by young people who want spaces. Young people who want chances and changes. So I got the go ahead from the C.E.O of Beatfreeks Ltd, did a crowd funder, and started on my journey.
And what have you been doing on that journey?
Well, since I’ve been back I’ve been up to quite a few things:
Plotting with the Justice League of Directors where to hunt for viable funding sources.
Inducting the Youth Directors – a group of young people who will offer direction for the vision of the company.
Laying the ground-work for future projects while maintaining the safety of the offline community within Poetry Lime.
Starting the online community with some much needed assistance.
Shelling out meetings and consultations left, right and centre re-introducing myself and this project to those in the scene while creating strong partnerships.
Choosing logos like it’s Pikachu.
Trying to leave my anxieties at the beach.
Analysing the gaps in the artistic scene and wondering how this company can contribute in turning the “scene” into an industry.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg you know?
And why do you care about doing all of this?
Excuse the dialect but – I believe we Bajans real talented. If you are one of these people that think Rihanna is de hottest talent from 246 then, as far as I’m concerned, you are somebody who only uses salt and pepper to season yuh food. Now don’t get me wrong. Ain’t nuttin wrong wid salt and pepper, ain’t nuttin wrong wid Rihanna, but don’t deny the array of other spices available, yuh dig?
I dig, I dig. So where are you going from here?
From here it’s about listening to the artistic community – all of it, because though Barbados is small it is layered and dynamic as much with it’s people as it is with it’s art.
It’s about making partnerships with those who share in the vision.
It’s about experiencing what is here at the moment while going through the rigors of administration.
Honestly, right now, BFB is the scariest and possibly biggest thing I’ve ever attempted to do.
While I keep staring at the horizon, it’s good to know I am not alone in my vision. I have teams of wonderful people encouraging this idea with their spirit.