Stir It Up: Montego Bay Festivals

By: Katie Manning

January 17, 2013

Montego Bay is known for its non-stop party atmosphere and with a whole handful of festivals sprinkled liberally across the calendar, visitors flock to this part of the island to sample a wide variety of entertainment events. Having just celebrated 50 years of independence, there is a particular party buzz about town at the moment – adding a little extra flavour to this year’s offerings.

Montego Bay Jazz & Blues Festival

Live performance at the Jazz & Blues Festival © Montego Bay Jazz & Blues Festival

Arguably Montego Bay’s most popular annual event, the Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival takes place at the end of January and showcases some of the island’s best-known talent alongside international artists. Now in its 15th year, the line-up just keeps getting better with big name stars such as Gladys Knight, Ron Isley, Diana Ross and Monty Alexander travelling over to Montego Bay especially for the festival. The shows normally take place over three days so there’s plenty of time to catch all your favourite performers in between trips to the local beach bar.

Montego Bay Reggae Sumfest

Reggae Sumfest © Geoffrey Berry Photography

A little later in the year (usually mid July) Montego Bay plays host to Reggae Sumfest – a four-night festival/beach party featuring a mix of international and Caribbean reggae artists in a series of gigs and parties across the city. Past festivals have seen musicians like Usher, Chris Brown and Rihanna all take to the stage in Montego Bay, as well as lesser-known homegrown talent. Upbeat and often a little raucous, locals and visitors alike party away the day and night at various venues spread across the city.

Montego Bay Reggae Sumfest

Reggae Sumfest merchandise © Geoffrey Berry Photograpy

One of Montego Bay’s more unusual events, the annual Trelawny Yam Festival has received quite a bit of press lately due to one high profile fan – local superstar Usain Bolt (who just happens to come from Trelawny). A staple ingredient in the Jamaican diet, the yam is awarded some respect here and this annual festival celebrates the humble vegetable in all its glory. With a whole roster of events organised, including everything from recipe tastings to the honouring of a yam king and queen, this quirky event attracts over 10,0000 attendees over the course of just one day in April.

Rounding off the year in late November is Stir It Up Film & Music Festival. Doing pretty much exactly what it says on the tin, this Montego Bay event showcases the work of Industry professionals, emerging musicians and up-and-coming filmmakers in a series of screenings, performances and workshops. Offering fantastic exposure for contemporary Caribbean culture, this local festival provides a wonderful insight into the local Jamaican arts scene.


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

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