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Calo…..Caribbean Culture: Calo Festival

Ahh…Sun, sea, sand and soca, that quartet of life essentials I really wanted from my Caribbean trip, that for one reason or another, never happened earlier this year. This is a particularly painful disappointment for me as I’ve never been before.

Here in rainy ol’ London, I was getting excited about having a chance to go to the first ever CALO Festival (CALO being an amalgamation of sorts of the event’s tagline ‘where the Caribbean meets London’) to get even just a small taste of what I felt I missed out on from my nonexistent holiday.

Held at the grand London landmark that is Alexandra Palace and advertised as “the UK’s first ever event to showcase the largest mix of Pan-Caribbean culture”, CALO Festival seemed pretty ambitious in its plans, especially for its debut run. Its programme was full to the brim with so many performances and displays of music, food, drink, etc., that it looked too good to miss. It was taking place over the weekend before that other, little event in August with a Caribbean theme (whisper it now: the Notting Hill Carnival). So, no competition then!

Team Hotminute went over on day three, hoping to see what’s what in terms of activities and performances for the main audience of the day – young people and families.

Calo Festival 2011 Calo.....Caribbean Culture: Calo Festival

There was a nice atmosphere in the afternoon, especially during the Kids’ Carnival Splash. Good activities were put on for children, including a stilt-walking class offered by instructor Kyle Walcott. The mas bands participating were carnival-quality, I was really impressed by M2K’s Olympics-themed costumes, as well as Shademakers’ fantastic horse cavalry. There were also a decent variety of stalls offering everything from food to fashion, art to cultural artefacts. I have to admit I couldn’t bring myself to visit the holiday stalls, that would have been too cruel to handle!


Despite all the positives, sadly, there didn’t seem to be a great turnout in numbers on the last day, especially given the capacity of the imposing venue. This didn’t seem too surprising though with it being the final day, as well as the fact that the event is completely new on the radar.

 There were also a decent variety of stalls offering everything from food to fashion, art to cultural artefacts. 

First time event glitches are certainly inevitable; sadly these are more noticeable at an event of such large scale and ambition. However, as stated by the organisers of CALO Festival on their Facebook page, sponsors “pulled out citing the riots, causing mayhem in our first attempt to host one of the most positive cultural events for the pan-Caribbean community.”

I certainly hope that next years’ event, if there is to be one, will iron out many of this years’ issues, as we could definitely do with something like CALO Festival.

In the meantime, a Caribbean holiday at some point in the next few years is definitely still on my ‘things to do before I’m 30’ list – TnT Carnival 2012, here I come?

Want to attend Calo next year? Head to;

Calo Online


Words: Rachel S

Photography: Okito Gonzales

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