Sun | Feb 25, 2018

Sumfest wants JUTC on reggae ride - Festival pursuing islandwide transportation to festival

Published:Sunday | May 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Robert Russell
Part of the audience for a main stage night of Reggae Sumfest 2011 at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre, Montego Bay, St James.
Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) buses.
JUTC buses

In Jamaican popular music parlance, to 'buss' means that an entertainer has achieved a significant level of hopefully sustainable popularity, enabling them to earn well from their craft. One of the markers of this standing is appearing on a major event such as Reggae Sumfest, the annual festival held in Montego Bay, St James.

For this year's staging the Sumfest organisers are looking for a bus themselves at least 40 Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) units, in fact, as they wish to establish an islandwide transportation network to the festival. There are two main stage nights at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre, Dancehall Night on Friday, July 22, and Reggae Night on Saturday, July 23.

Robert Russell, deputy chairman and co-producer of Reggae Sumfest, told Automotives that they are not reinventing the wheel with the idea, which is still in early stages. "This is something that has been used by Chug It in Negril," Russell said. The target number of buses also comes from what the organisers of that party, the recent staging of which featured Beenie Man and Spice who are both on Sumfest's Dancehall Night line-up, hired for their successful event.

The Sumfest organisers have been in dialogue with the Chug It operators.

In the target market are persons who do not have a motor vehicle or access to one, as well as persons who would prefer to leave their cars behind and be driven comfortably and professionally rather than take the wheel after a long night and probably having a few drinks. Russell said the intention is not to make a profit from the proposed bus system for the festival, but facilitate persons who wish to attend.

It would not replace the long-standing Knutsford Express service to Reggae Sumfest, Russell pointing out that the transportation company is again a Sumfest sponsor.

In addition to Kingston, Russell is hoping for JUTC service to Reggae Sumfest 2016 from May Pen, Spanish Town, Ocho Rios and other urban centres across the island, "wherever there are areas which have that critical mass of people."

For Dancehall Night, well established as Sumfest's largest crowd attendance night and which Russell is looking forward to growing now that it has been shifted from Thursday to Friday, he said most of the audience comes from Montego Bay. There is also significant patronage from Kingston, Ocho Rios, Lucea and Negril.

"People from all over the island and the world come to Dancehall Night," Russell said, identifying Japan and Russia as places from which persons come to see the action at the Catherine Hall Entertainment Centre.

An improved highway infrastructure is working in Sumfest's favour, Russell describing it as a "godsend to Montego Bay and Sumfest. Now we can go from Kingston to Montego Bay in two hours and it is easy, comfortable driving." He does not see it having much effect on the festival's infrastructure on the ground, though, as major partner John Swaby's has a Montego Bay base.

All that is left to do is move persons from around the island to Montego Bay in late July. "If we can get to 40 JUTC buses we will be doing well," Russell said.