Mitchell Thurston, 12, is the youngest Bahamian performing in the backline Junkanoo tour that is taking place at various festivals and sites throughout the United Kingdom.

Since this is a backline tour, the main focus is the music and the musical instruments of Junkanoo but the costumes are still vital to the performances.

Mitchell, though young, is a veteran Junkanoo artist having performed with Barabbas and the Tribe since he was 11 months old. His father, who is also performing in London, is a member of the same group and plays the same instrument as his son called ‘the scraper’. This does not bother the son, as he loves having the same interests and spending lots of time with his father.

“People sometimes ask me why I am always with my daddy, but someday he will not be there for me, so I love being with him,” explained the seventh grader who attends St. Anne’s High School.

Mitchell was not originally scheduled to participate, but he asked Quentin “Barabbas” Woodside, who had the task of handpicking the individuals for the group, to allow him to take the trip.

“I had never been on a trip representing Junkanoo, so I asked and he give me a chance to represent my country,” Mitchell said. The talented performer has also travelled with the Bahamas National Children’s choir to Africa, Russia and the United States.

While the other members of the group were sponsored by the Arts Council England, Mitchell had to find his own sponsorship. But with the help of family, friends and his parents’ co-workers, he is promoting Junkanoo in the United Kingdom. Partnering with the Council is the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism and a private donor.

Mitchell said while the group is having fun performing, the members are also acting as ambassadors for the country. He explained that he has met individuals who had the misconception that The Bahamas was a part of the United States. After feeling the excitement following performances and interactions with the group, many have expressed an interest in coming to The Bahamas.

“They are amazed; they are like ‘what is this thing called Junkanoo’, ‘where do you get all this energy’, ‘ what do you make the drums out of?’

He added, “People say they want to come to The Bahamas for their next vacation or they want to come and see Junkanoo in The Bahamas.”

The group arrived in the United Kingdom July 3. Since then, the group representing artists from A and B category Junkanoo groups and members from Grand Bahama and Eleuthera, has performed in the Isle of Wight (IOW) and Henley. They are in London to perform and are also scheduled to perform in Hastings.The July trip is part two of the Junkanoo Live initiative and the second time this year a contingent of Junkanoo artists has gone to the IOW.

In April 2008, during part one of Junkanoo Live, a group of Junkanoo artisans and performers went to the Isle of Wight for an exchange and residency programme. The Arts Council of England also sponsored that trip and Barabbas and Angelique McKay, project manager for both initiatives and manager of the National Junkanoo Museum of The Bahamas both played an instrumental part in getting both initiatives off the ground.

Part of the contingent during this tour is the Assistant Director of Culture Eddie Dames and the Chairman of the Junkanoo committee Philip Cooper.

Young Mitchell is not the only one who realises the importance of showcasing Junkanoo to the world. One of the main reasons the Department of Culture is partnering in this initiative is to demonstrate some of the Bahamian culture to a whole knew audience.

In a pre-recorded remarks for the dedication of the United Kingdom’s first carnival and celebratory arts centre in the IOW in April, Minister of State for Culture the Hon. Charles Maynard said The Bahamas’ culture is unique and has in its foundation the intersection of customs and traditions brought to The Bahamas by the British Colonisers and the African slaves, in their adaptation to their “new life”.

“This mixing has yielded, in some instances, peculiar and unique customs; none more so than Junkanoo,” he said.

Mitchell Thurston, 12, is the youngest performer showcasing Junkanoo and Bahamian culture in the United Kingdom for 21 days. He understands the importance of showcasing the cultural art form to a new and excited audience.