Carnival on the island of Montserrat has become virtual and communitarian

Photo: Derek Galon

With just over 5,000 inhabitants, the island of Montserrat has decided, because of the Covid-19 global pandemic, to celebrate without parades through the streets, without foreign guests and virtually the 58th edition of its annual carnival from Saturday December 19, 2020 to Saturday January 2, 2021.


“Montserrat Carnival 2020 is a virtual and community affair”, is the sentence with which the Montserrat Arts Council began this long press release published on October 27.

In the latter, the body explained why Montserrat’s carnival in its traditional form, which is usually held in December, will be cancelled and that digital will play an important role in order to nevertheless offer some entertainment to the island’s population, which declined from over 12,000 inhabitants before the eruption of Soufrière Hills volcano in 1995 and 1997 to just over 5,000 today.

“Montserrat’s annual Carnival is a multi-day experience, which celebrates the island’s music, pageantry, heritage and culture, and it is one of the most anticipated end of year carnivals in the Caribbean, usually drawing thousands of attendees during the Christmas season.

However, as a result of the global pandemic COVID-19, for the first time in a very long time some annual events like the Miss Montserrat pageant have been cancelled, and the Calypso and Soca Monarch shows and the new King of Kings show are going to take place, but they will not be hosted in the Carnival Village. Instead, the events will be relocated to the Montserrat Cultural Centre (MCC), in an attempt to adhere to the COVID-19 recommendations issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS)”, said the Arts Council.

However, booth owners were allowed to set up shop in the carnival village so they could earn some money. The MAC will even hire local DJs to set the mood.

Montserrat Carnival-Carnaval 1

A deconcentration of the festivities

The festivities will be deconcentrated because, instead of organizing them all in the north of the island, other communities such as Salem, St. Peter’s, Cudjoe Head and St. John’s will also host performances of calypso, dances, masquerades, steelpan, among others, “so that revelers can come out and have a good time, but in a controlled and sensible manner, said the organizers.

In order to avoid the transmission of Covid-19 in these various locations, especially in the carnival village, the Montserrat Arts Council, in collaboration with the health and social services, have implemented a very strict protocol that must be respected by the revellers. It includes: reconfiguration of parking lots, mutiplication of entrances and exits to avoid queues, physical distancing between booth vendors and between visitors, installation of hand washing stations, supply of masks and hand sanitisers, random temperature controls, installation of a first-aid station, this list of measures is not exhaustive.

The MAC hopes to return to the traditional carnival in December 2021.