Thu | Apr 26, 2018

Kingston railway station gets high-definition view

Published:Sunday | March 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Fiona Whitty, cinematographer at the Railway Station, downtown Kingston
Engine 54 at the railway station, downtown Kingston.
Jenny Gordon, cinematographer, at the Railway Station, downtown Kingston.
Arches and coaches ... those were the glory days at the railway station, downtown Kingston.
A lone sign and a visitor wait at the platform at the railway station, downtown Kingston.

Love, it is said, comes in many manifestations, and in this instance, it is one between time, warped heritage and 35mm high definition ... sounds confusing, perhaps convoluted, but the feeling is mutual and devoid of any misconstrued perceptions.

Jenny Gordon and Fiona Whitty, London-based cinematographers, have developed their new love affair with the Kingston Railway Station in downtown Kingston. Once a hub and centre of activities, this grandiose structure has loads of stories to tell beneath its dust filmed facade.

They are seeking to transform the terminus into a hub of creativity, highlighting the glory days of the railway and getting the communities to learn a skill and empower themselves.

"This year, we will be preparing the space and engaging the communities to begin the workshops by February 2017," Gordon informed. "We will be seeking funding and sponsorship for an ongoing film-training and arts programme, which will take place each year at the station."

They, as a part of their ongoing programme, plan to work with people of all ages from underprivileged downtown communities - Slaughterhouse and Matthews Lane.

"Our aim is to provide film and other arts-based workshops," Whitty said. "We would like to guide people through the creative process, to build their confidence, life skills and professional development. Ideally, we would like to work with people aged 15 plus," she said.

The aim is to open up dialogue and communication and begin to create an artistic space to facilitate positive change in downtown.

"We want this project to be inclusive of all cultural backgrounds, gender, age and abilities," said Gordon

A labour of love, marrying cinema with arts has multifold objectives - confidence building, communication skills and teamwork, improved technical and problem-solving skills, to increase literacy through scriptwriting and storyboard development.

"We are partnering with Osmosis Caribbean a Kingston-based online art initiative, to deliver the art elements of the workshops," Whitty said.

These projects, she said, will seek to inspire participants to use creativity to communicate, share and celebrate history, identity, community and environment.

"Encouraging peer-to-peer support at the workshops will help ensure the sustainability," she added.

The railway terminus, a symbol of movement, motion and convergence of science and arts, seeks to serve as the perfect locale, according to the cinematographers.

"The train station is a beautiful building with its vivid history that evokes memories of times past," said Whitty. "Once we saw the place we fell in love with it immediately, as it's a fabulous location with its unique history and heritage."

The duo, for whom Jamaica is a second home, said that they had been looking for a project space to work in downtown. They had discussions with Patrick Stanigar from UDC, who put them on to Fitzroy Williams, CEO of the Jamaica Railway Corporation (JRC).

"JRC thought our project would be a good fit at the right time as they were looking for ways to engage the local communities downtown," informed Gordon.

"It is situated in the hustle and bustle of the local market community, which can only be inspiring," Whitty said. "We couldn't have thought of a more magical place to be working from."

According to them, the rich history and location of the railway terminus offers a unique foundation to build film and art workshops around and critically help to preserve this piece of Jamaica's heritage.

"The railway station should be treasured and preserved," said Gordon. "Restoring it to its former glory will benefit future generations. It holds so many stories and memories from its colourful past and history which can be shared."

The station could be an archive, museum and educational hub for the local, national and international community to get involved and enjoy.

"We think an ongoing art and film programme for the local community with a gallery space to showcase the arts and film produced from these workshops would be a great way to develop part of the space," Whitty said. "There are so many ideas and possibilities for this fabulous location to blossom into the future."

As artists and film-makers, they say Jamaica is a huge well of inspiration. From the dogs scavenging downtown to angry or laughing encounters set against the vibrancy of the inner city, there is never a dull moment to be had when out and about on the streets. "It's like a living film set with every genre of film being played out before our eyes," Gordon said. "This is a place that we want to inhabit."

They are currently producing a documentary, looking into the social fabric of Jamaica through women - Loves, Lusts and Longings - which they hope to complete during this visit.

"Our next project is a film about single ethnic minority women living in London and what it takes to find a relationship in today's fast-paced disposable society," Whitty said.

As independent film-makers, they would be raising funds and sponsorship to come back to Jamaica to develop the film and art project with the train station.

For the duo, the creativity train is about to depart from Platform 1.