Dennis Victory is a professional actor, dancer, choreographer, and teacher who grew up in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. He performed in the windrush musical, The Big Life, at Stratford East which he describes as one of the most personally rewarding jobs in his career. You can find out more about his career from his website https://www.dennisvictory.co.uk/ . Here he talks to Soobie about his impressions of St Vincent and Trinidad, where his family live.
D = Dennis
S = Soobie
D. I’m Dennis Victory and my parents are both from St Vincent in the Caribbean. The island next to it became quite, kind of, famous during the Olympics, which is Trinidad, which is where the other half of my family live, in Trinidad and Tobago. So, St Vincent is a big island that’s near there and that kinda helps people associate whereabouts in the Caribbean my parents are from.
S. So when speaking to someone from outside the Caribbean what do you think St Vincent is most famous for?
D. Okay, well, without a doubt it would be Bananas. Trinidad and Tobago, which is the neighbouring islands, where half my relatives live is, obviously, the birthplace of Calypso, Soca and the birthplace of carnivals. It all came from there , Trinidad. The steel pan, everyone knows about the steel pan that people play, that all gave birth in Trinidad, the neighbouring island.And they have a way of talking, they kind of sing when they talk, kinda like Welsh really but, um,
when you speak to someone from Trinidad (speaks with a Trinidad accent) ‘ they sing when dem talk, dem talk and dem always singing when dem talk.’
S. ( smiling) Right. Is it, just off the top of my head, quite a mountainous island? Or is the Topography sort of mountains and valleys or hills and valleys?
D. Specifically Yeah, it’s extremely mountainous. They’ve got a big volcano there er, Mount Soufriere. And the hills, which probably explains why a lot of people from High Wycombe are from St Vincent. It's home from home. Yeah, because I saw my mum, as I was growing up, my Mum would zigzag her way up the hill, because we got a lot of hills in High Wycombe, and she would zig, zag her way up, and then I went to St Vincent with her when I was nine, I realised it's kind of the way everyone walks up the hills. To go straight up, it's exhausting.
S.Yeah, yeah - you do the zig-zag.
D. One of the things that are left in the Caribbean, is, kind of, ye olde English. A lot of words used in the Caribbean language are very much words that have died off in the English language. Words like vex and vexation is a natural word for someone in the Caribbean to use but in England it’s died off with quite a lot of people, hardly ever anyone uses that, um. Yes, it's, it's interesting, they kind of speak ye olde English but with a Caribbean accent.
S. Dennis, if you think about the island, what would your main colours, if you had to describe it in colours, what would they be?
D. Very literally they’ll be the colours of the flag really - red, gold, green, black.
D. You got black for the whole volcanic rock and the volcano. The red and the green and the yellow literally you, within 10 yards of walking down the road, you see those three colours. There's a kind of a turquoise that you would get to see but that tends to be a lot of flying creatures, hummingbirds and, and all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures, You'll see a lot of them there. The colours of the flag I would associate with the country, to be fair.
S. If you had to say what your favourite island meal would be, what would you be eating and where would you be?
D. Oh without a doubt it would be rice and peas. Chicken, rice and peas with, um, plantain on the side. That would be favourite meal without a doubt, and then dessert will probably be a Sugar Apple. My Mum was pretty much from up in the mountains, kind of what they call, where she was from is a place that they call or nickname ‘The Fruit Bowl’. Literally, where, where that part of the island of St Vincent is the most vegetation, you can think of is all there - bananas, grapefruit, er, the thing they call Sugar Apples which are incredible.
D. You bite into them and it tastes like apple pie.
S. And where would you have your meal if you could have it anywhere on the island?
D. Oh wow , if possible, out on the balcony. Everybody has a balcony, a veranda or a porch. Everybody has one.
S. It sounds like dance is definitely something that you would pass on and like to kind of preserve and keep going. What other kind of cultural things do you feel that you draw your identity from that you would particularly like to preserve and pass on to your family, and to others?
D. Well yeah, actually far more cultural productions that are more about Afro Caribbean culture in England. More plays to do that, really.