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Columns : Island Notes - Peter Barratt Last Updated: Feb 13, 2017 - 1:45:37 AM

An Idea for a Permanent Folklore Show in Freeport
By Peter Barratt
May 30, 2014 - 12:58:52 AM

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Grand Bahamarama

In 1971 I wrote and co-directed a folklore show that was performed every Monday evening in the ballroom of the old Holiday Inn. The other (and more important) co-director and electronic genius was Shelton Archer, a British expat. The show we put together was mimed to a tape and covered the history of the Bahamas from the Lucayans to the present day. The theme song for the show was ‘Where ya gonna go next year? Come to the Bahamas…’ by Frank Penn.

It was not great theatre but the young Bahamian cast threw themselves into it with great gusto. In fact two of the cast went on to act professionally and one, Willie (Love) Lightbourne, is still around as a popular local singer and tourist guide. The show featured a simultaneous slideshow commentary from screens either side of the stage, There was the Columbus landfall played out to the background sound of Carmina Burana, live gunfire (in the pirate scene), mist created by dry ice in a bootlegging scene, lumbermen in kaleidoscopic costumes hurling down the pine, a holy roller church scene (probably the most popular scene) and ending with a junkanoo rush through the audience at the end of the show. Jay Mitchell the accomplished local musician was invited to write a song for the show entitled ‘Goombay Summer in Freeport’. The last stanza describes the Bazaar:

Down to the Bazaar you can get what your heart desire

‘Cos its Goombay Summer in Freeport, Freeport/Lucaya

France, Spain, Africa all the places you want to go

Between the Straw Market and the Casino

We even got Mexico!

‘Cos its Goombay Summer in Freeport. Freeport/ Lucaya!

Photo of Wesley Butler one of the actors in Grand Bahamarama 1973

The show, including a backdrop beach scene, was taken to Nassau and had a one night stand at the Government High School in front of a few politicians and the governor of the time. We amended the show after July 2003 to include an independence parade. Sadly the folklore show, that had been seen by well over 2000 people, ran its course as actors moved away or became disinterested.

Today there is a great need for something similar to replace ‘Grand Bahamarama’. It would help visitors and locals alike to be exposed to the colourful history of this country. It could be a folklore show, a dramatized Junkanoo extravaganza or even a film (possibly even an IMAX presentation). I agree a Bahamian Carnival is not the right medium.

I have tried to get some interest for a screenplay about the Bahamas without success (after all Hollywood produced the highly successful film ‘Hawaii’ which has precious little history compared to the epic story of the Bahamas). Immodestly perhaps, I even had the gall to suggest that ‘Bahama Saga’ might be turned into a film script….but everybody I have spoken to is cool to the idea. But, not to be diverted I had a copy of the draft of a screenplay dropped off at the BBC in London… (their reply must have got lost in the mail…!)

Peter Barratt is an architect/town planner who was formerly in charge of the development of Freeport. He writes with first-hand knowledge of the Bahamas having first visited the country in 1960. Because of his long experience in the islands he has been able to record many interesting insights, observations and historic moments that readers should find intriguing. He has published several books about the island nation: Grand Bahama, Freeport Notebook and Bahama Saga, (the latter a historical novel about the islands). He has also written a full colour work entitled: Angelic Verses and two other works are near publication: The Port at War and St Peter Was Never There .

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his/her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of TheBahamasWeekly.com

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