LAST Sunday, I made my way from Rebel Salute in St Elizabeth to the Kingston Waterfront. I was responding to an invitation from Dr Dennis Howard for what was described as Rhythm and Brunch.
It was a wake-up call and enchanting experience.
The East Car Park at Victoria Pier was transformed by the team of Jackie Tyson and Dennis Howard through their From Thought to Finish — Jahmento, creating an environment which saw some of the leading figures of our national life chatting and mingling. Dennis and Jackie promised it will be a monthly event. My hope is it will be held with even greater levels of frequency.
If residents of uptown were looking for an excuse to venture downtown on a Sunday afternoon, they have certainly found one.
What Howard and Tyson have demonstrated through this venture, which is supported by the Urban Development Corporation, is that the vision of having our waterfront and its environs becoming an area bustling with commercial and entertainment activities is indeed a viable option.
My hope is that the sterling efforts of Tyson and Howard will now be the catalyst for the staging of more culture-based activities in the area.
The timing is auspicious for such ventures as downtown Kingston is now enjoying a boom in real-estate activities, thanks in no small measure to the citing of the Digicel corporate headquarters in a region which had suffered much by way of urban decay.
I was happy to see newly installed Minister of Culture Lisa Hanna, who seemed so at home on the waterfront, as hers will be a critical role in realising the economic possibilities of this area so vital to our national development.
Based on her public utterances, my opinion is that she is sufficiently seized of the opportunities and will make the appropriate interventions, fully cognisant of the role which culture must play in the new economic thrust being espoused by the new administration.
Watching the many individuals drawn from different parts of the adjacent communities engaged in the disassembling of the props and equipment last Sunday, I could not help but remark to Howard about the possibilities for employment which culture and entertainment present. Here were a number of persons not formally employed to Howard or Tyson simply walking up after the event and getting a job. As I have often said, many of those who reside in those areas we pejoratively refer to as garrisons and who seem averse to standard modes of employment, are only excited at the prospect of being engaged in cultural ventures. If the Jamaica Emergency Employment Programme (JEEP) is to create a significant dent in the levels of unemployment currently plaguing our nation it will definitely have to navigate the contours of our cultural landscape.
I am one who certainly believes in the role of government in stimulating the economy through employment creation measures. However, I think it is important to caution those who view government as an ATM (to use the words of Trinidad PM Kamla Bisasor) to think instead of the types of collaboration which involves investments from both the private and the public sectors in economically viable culturally related ventures. I believe that as a condition for investing in festivals and other commercially driven cultural and entertainment projects that the government should ensure a financial return on its funds. This is the only way the government will be able to provide sustainable support for the cultural sector. We will be severely challenged to do otherwise in the tight fiscal space in which we operate.
I am one who strongly believes that the government can be instrumental in encouraging the financial sector to become more engaged in the funding of cultural production. We need to see the traditional holders of capital come to the realisation that the cultural industries will provide us with significant economic growth providing we make the requisite investment.
I was reminded by my friend Fae Ellington that one has to be careful in the conclusions one reaches in the prediction of cultural and commercial outcomes. Many of us will recall that it was thought that the motion picture business would have been upended by the advent of television. True television did bring about some changes in the industry, the Cineplex is just one of the many responses to this development. However, television is now one of the major income streams for the motion picture industry.
Fae informed me that Stages Production, which is renowned for what has been called roots play, has now acquired a theatre which will be putting on not just the Shebada and Delcita-type forms of dramatic entertainment but some of the traditional fare which we thought had been displaced by the more grass-roots offering.
The success of the roots play, it seems, will now save traditional theatre which it was thought to be displacing. Think on these things.