Northern Ireland

Belfast celebrates Jamaican flavour

As Jamaicans all around the world celebrate Sunday's performance by the fastest man on the planet in the 100 metres final, a day later they party to mark 50 years of the island's independence from Britain.

It's a day that's celebrated all over the world, including Northern Ireland which has a growing Jamaican community.

Over the weekend a series of events were held to celebrate.

Siobhan Brown's parents live in Jamaica, she moved to NI 20 years ago with her husband David. Siobhan said that she has seen Northern Ireland change a lot.

"Even 20 years ago I always felt safe here," she said. "Back then I was one of the few black people you would see on the street, but people no longer turn and stare at me on the street and I think it's great."

"I think Jamaica has a lot in common with Ireland and Northern Ireland, the way the people engage both politically and in terms of music and culture.

"Also people are friendly, they've got a great vibe and great craic as they say over here, but I think having an awareness that there is actually a Jamaican culture in Northern Ireland is really good."

Her husband David added: "For me the big similarity is the sense of family, the Irish focus so much on the family as well.

"When I first lived in London as a man from Ireland, the Jamaican community were very warm and accepted me in without reserve and it was fantastic. There is is similar feeling of welcoming over here."

Image caption David and Siobahn Brown

Raquel McKee was one of the Jamaica 50 Northern Ireland organisers.

"We're celebrating Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence otherwise known as our jubilee. This is our 50 years - we couldn't let it go without marking it.

"I know that when I first came here, for the first five or six years I was here I felt very isolated.

"I didn't realise there was so many other Jamaicans here feeling just like I felt, feeling lonely without people who understand your culture, and the things that you miss back home, so this has been a brilliant opportunity for us to get together and meet each other and be able to celebrate."

People of all cultures came to experience the food and and of course the music.

Courtney, who has lived in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years, said he was pleasantly surprised by the events and the fact that there were now so many Jamaicans in NI.

"Today's been a welcome surprise - I never thought things like this went on, I didn't realise there was so many of us here.

Raquel added: "At the moment I'm making festival - a dish that is originated in Hellshire which is in St Catherine in Jamaica and it's enjoyed by Jamaicans all over the world and we're also cooking up jerk chicken which we have on the BBQ now. "

Originally this was a spice technique used to preserve pork.

Typically on the island you can often find it cooked in drum barrels cut in half and used as a makeshift smoker.

Image caption Young Lion is a dancehall DJ for BBC Radio 1xtra

Other popular dishes include curry goat, rice and peas and the national dish, ackee and salt fish.

"Food is the most important thing to us, there is nothing that happens that does not include food or music because the two go hand in hand and it really is what binds us together," Raquel said.

Food has always played a prominent role in the island's culture and history but for most Jamaicans their first love is music

BBC Radio 1xtra Dancehall and Reggae DJ Young Lion's parents are from Jamaica.

"The reason why Jamaicans take music so seriously, if you remember like back in the days of slavery they would be working out in the fields all day long and all they had to look forward to was in the night time they would group together and the music they created was called Mento," he said.

"Those beats are where dancehall, reggae and ska music actually came from.

"That was their thing to look forward to and the only time they could feel themselves and feel a joy and a happiness, and it was because of the music - the beat was going through their soul."

And it was that courage and soul that helped Jamaica achieve full independence from Britain 50 years ago. The new nation celebrated with parties and dancing in the street.

Image caption On Independence Day 50 years ago there were parties on the street

And just on Sunday night the fastest man alive - Usain Bolt -made the perfect start to the anniversary winning the 100m with his fellow countryman Yohan Blake taking silver.

The nation's motto "out of many, one people" means their success will be celebrated by Jamaicans here and at home.