English is the official language of Barbados.
As a result of its long-standing association with England, Barbados is mainly Anglican. The Moravian and Methodist churches were added to the list of denominations of the 18th century. Since then these have been followed by Roman Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, the Salvation Army and many other small religious groups. There are small groups of Hindus and Muslims, as well as a small Jewish community. These groups all have complete religious freedom.
As part of its activities, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) organizes two annual national festivals-Crop Over, and the National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA). It also assists in the staging of Holders Opera Season celebration, the Holetown Festival, and the Oistins Fish Festival.
The Crop Over Festival
A folk festival which originated on the sugar plantations, Crop Over was then, as it is now, a means of celebrating the end of a hard-working sugar cane season. The three-week festival runs from mid-July to early August. It is a lively showcase of all facets of Barbadian culture, a fluid blend of African survivals and western modernity. Activities include plantation fairs, a donkey-cart parade, a King and Queen of the Crop competition, street malls and the Pic-o-de-Crop Calypso Monarch competition.
“Kadooment Day” is the culmination of the Crop Over Festival, when costumed bands dance in the streets after a competitive parade before judges at the National Stadium.
Oistins Fish Festival
The Fish Festival celebrates the life and contributions made by the south coast fishing town of Oistins in Christ Church. Occurring in April, the celebrations include fish-boning competitions, fishing boat races, food stalls and arts and craft displays.
This National Independence Festival of Creative Arts (NIFCA) is held annually to commemorate Barbados’ independence. It was introduced in 1973 to provide a forum for the creative and performing arts. No age limit is set for the competition which moves from the community, through parishes, to the national level. Successful participants receive awards of gold, silver and bronze, depending upon the level of excellence received.
The Barbados Landship
Barbados is the only country which boasts a ‘landship’ movement – a navy that never goes to sea.
Established over 100 years ago, through the initiative of Moses Wood, a retired seaman, the fleet is commanded by an admiral and has incorporated all the ratings of the British Navy. The club house is the ship that always carries the prefix BLS (Barbados Landship) before its name. Before independence, the prefix was always HMLS (Her Majesty’s Landship).
The ship’s crew wears uniforms similar to those worn in a professional navy, and are trained and disciplined in the manner of the military. The language of “Jack Tars” is used. The landship attends church services and parades with their corps of drums (a tuk band). Their manoeuvres are gala affairs, packed with excitement, rhythm and movement.
The national sport of Barbados is cricket, another aspect of our British heritage that is now “uniquely” ours. Two national organisations administer the local game on a competitive basis, the Barbados Cricket Association based at the historic Kensington Oval and the Barbados Cricket League, located at Blenheim.
Some great international players such as Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Wesley Hall, Charlie Griffith, Joel “Big Bird” Garner and Sir Garfield Sobers have come from our island and have been honoured for their contributions to the game. Barbados is one of the international centres for cricket and plays host to regular test matches between the months of January and April, with teams drawn from the West Indies, England, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Increasingly, the shorter form of the game 20/20 for the number of overs has become more popular. Horse racing is another sport which has many avid fans. The Cockspur Gold Cup, the premier racing event in the Caribbean, was inaugurated in 1982, and has become an international event. This event was renamed the Sandy Lane Gold Cup in 1997. The home of horse racing is the historic Garrison Savannah.
There are a number of other sports and games which attract wide participation. These include netball, football, basketball, field hockey, squash, badminton, swimming, yachting, skin-diving, water-polo, game fishing, surfing, windsurfing, snorkeling, lawn, table and road tennis, volleyball, golf, polo, rugby, football/soccer, cycling, boxing, karate, judo, athletics, national and international 10k-marathons, chess, dominoes, bridge, darts, draughts, whist and hearts.
Motor rallying is very popular in Barbados and our road network is especially suitable for this sport. Drivers, local and regional, participate in special stages and rallies. Rallies are often based on the Tulip international system of navigation which allows competitors from overseas to compete on even terms with their Barbadian counterparts.
Body building is another important sport in Barbados. Teams produced have Central American and Caribbean Champions for 12 consecutive years. Darcy Beckles won Mr. World and was the runner-up for the Mr. Universe competition in the 1970s. Barbados continues to make its mark in the World Team Championships.