Monserrat is where it's at, says Sir George Martin

Kate Simon



The spotlight will fall on the Caribbean island of Montserrat this Spring thanks to one of its greatest fans: the legendary music producer and former manager of the Beatles, Sir George Martin.

Sir George and his wife flew to the little island in the Eastern Caribbean this month as part of filming for a documentary for BBC TV's Arena series, due to air this Easter, in which he will talk about his love for Montserrat and the happy times he has spent there.

The music producer fell for the island during a holiday in 1977, and by 1979 he had opened a recording studio there, AIR Montserrat, an outpost of his London AIR Studios. Superstars including Michael Jackson, Sir Elton John, Eric Clapton and Dire Straits are among a stellar list that has recorded hits in his tropical retreat.

But the studio had to close in 1989 after it was damaged by Hurricane Hugo. Sir George, however, kept a home on the island, Olveston House, which he initially built to accommodate members of visiting bands. And he has been an active supporter of Montserrat's attempts to rebuild after the hurricane and subsequent devastation caused by the eruption of the Soufriere Hills Volcano in 1995.

Keen to help the island get back on its feet, Sir George organised a fundraising event, Music For Montserrat, at the Royal Albert Hall in 1997. And he continues in his efforts to help rebuild, taking the role of patron of the Montserrat Cultural Centre, which opened in 2007. He helped fund the construction of the centre, now the biggest public building on the island, through the sale of limited edition lithographs of his score for the Beatles song "Yesterday", signed by himself and Sir Paul McCartney, which raised $1.4m.

"Since 1978, Montserrat has been a major part of me and my wife's life," said Sir George. "We wanted to show what we love about this island and not the dismal side that many other programmes have shown."

A volcanic eruption in 1995 devastated a large swathe of Montserrat, including the capital, Plymouth. Due to ongoing volcanic activity, this part of the island is a no-go area, and just half the original population, around 6,000 people, have remained. Yet Montserrat, which sits 27 miles south-west of Antigua, is establishing a new capital at Little Bay and working hard to attract visitors back to its shores.

Montserrat's Soufriere Hills have become one of the must-see sights for volcano tourists. The best views can be gained from Jack Boy Hill and Belham Valley, or on a boat trip around the coast. Meanwhile, Montserrat is building a reputation for activity holidays, with hiking, horseriding, bird- and turtle-watching offered in the intact Silver and Centre Hills ranges. The rockfalls from the seismic activity have also created new diving opportunities off the island's black sands.

Little Montserrat may have had some big troubles to bear, but with the support of Sir George and all the other visitors who have experienced this beautiful island, it is rising from the ashes.

For more, visit the Monserrat Tourist Board, or see latest deals on holidays in Monserrat