Once upon a time, Friday night was like any other in the little town of Gros Islet on the Caribbean island of St Lucia.
Then someone – one of the bar owners; nobody knows any more which one, but it probably doesn’t matter – thought of a good way to attract customers: they started putting loudspeakers out onto the pavements and playing loud, upbeat music and residents would come out in their droves to dance and socialise and enjoy a beer or two with their friends and neighbours.
Over the years, this simple act has snowballed into what’s now considered to be a true ‘institution’ on St Lucia: “Jump Up”, which is the affectionate local name for the Gros Islet Friday Night Street Party (presumably because one jumps up to dance).
It didn’t take long for word to spread; where at first, Jump Up was mostly attended and enjoyed by Gros Islet residents, it’s now one of the top “must-visit” events on the island, with St Lucians travelling from all over the island to take part in the fun and tourists writing rave reviews of their experiences when they return home.
Jump Up these days is a joyful festival of music, traditional food, dancing and merry-making. Loud music blasts out from every corner of the town, and street food stalls line the pavements; the smell of grilled lambi, lobster and fried fish wafts from one pair of nostrils to another, filling the air with a delicious scent of good, honest, fresh St Lucian food. This is where you’ll get the true taste of St Lucian cuisine: fish cakes, fried chicken, fried fish and baked corn are all popular, and there’s always plenty of fresh fruit and peanuts on hand too.
Through the smoke and delicious scents from the food stalls, people dance non-stop. From their arrival at about 9pm until their departure in the early hours of Saturday morning, locals and tourists alike dance themselves dizzy to the sounds of Caribbean music, smiles of enjoyment spread across their faces.
The party atmosphere at Jump Up is something all adult visitors to St Lucia should experience, as it really encompasses the joyful spirit of the island and her people.
Getting to Gros Islet from Marigot Bay is easy enough: either take a taxi, which will take about an hour, or go by water taxi, which takes about half an hour from Marigot. Most taxi drivers will be happy to stay with you during your visit to Jump Up (you may feel more comfortable if you have a local person with you); alternatively, you can ask the taxi driver who takes you to Gros Islet to meet you at a specific bar or other landmark at a pre-determined time to take you back to the hotel.
If you’re visiting Jump Up, or any other night time event in St Lucia, the advice is much the same as for any part of the world: don’t wander off on your own, stay on the main streets, don’t take too much cash with you and don’t wear expensive jewellery.
But most of all, the advice is simple: ENJOY yourself! Visiting Jump Up at Gros Islet is a real must, and if you’re going to be on holiday in St Lucia it’s one of those activities that’s worth going out of your way to experience; you’ll be so glad you did!