Little Bristol in Barbados

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By Orla McHale, Travel Sub Editor

The Croft Magazine // In the far-off Caribbean, there's a small outpost of home. But this beach bar hides a more troubling history between two parts of the world.

Barbados... Home to idyllic beaches, the birthplace of rum and, for me, beautiful memories paired with some hard-hitting reflections. Mornings waking to the incoming tide and scuttle of monkeys across the veranda, days distinguished not by time but a dreamy blend of wandering from lounger to sea, and back to a book. The evenings called for spice, a drink and some music to serenade us. This wasn’t to be found in the nearest sleepy town of Speightstown (it lines the north-west coast of the island).

As we were informed by the locals, ‘da party’ picks up as you head further south, down the island. Which we later, as all good tourists do, checked off courtesy of a jammed reggae bus. Along the way, we reckoned we’d give the other bars a shot. We found a pop-up bar (a colourful shack overlooking the Caribbean Sea) and had our eyes diverted to the concrete flooring of the bar next-door, sprawled in white with ‘LITTLE BRISTOL BEACH BAR’. I went to take a picture, and to record the sense of a home away from home. Ahhh, Bristol. ‘Look it’s where you go to uni’, ‘we should go one evening’. I agreed. What could top the trip better than a boogie in a venue named after a city I’ve come to adore?

We found a pop-up bar (a colourful shack overlooking the Caribbean Sea) and had our eyes diverted to the concrete flooring of the bar next-door, sprawled in white with ‘LITTLE BRISTOL BEACH BAR’.

Now, in the peaceful aura of Barbados you can get swept up in forgetting. Forgetting, specifically, the island’s colonial history. You see, Speightstown was once busy with ships of tobacco, cotton and sugar, all bound for England. The demand for sugar condemned African slaves to lifetimes of unforgiving and gruelling work. So, was it an appropriate name for a bar? I know the protesters who tore down the Edward Colston statue would have something to say. But the bar opened in July 2015, and across Barbados there’s little mention of its slave history. Aside from the statue of Bussa in St. Michael (a slave who, in 1816, rose up and led the Easter Rebellion), and an 1822 inventory of the slaves at St. Nicholas Abbey. Even so, I thank the place name ‘Little Bristol’ for stopping me in my tracks on an otherwise indulgent trip. For reminding me that despite the 6,600 km distance between Speightstown and Bristol, what the places lack in spatial proximity is made up for with dark historical bonds… bonds perhaps still to be questioned.

Featured Image: Epigram / Orla McHale

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