Thu | May 28, 2020

Westerners playing games with virus warning

Published:Sunday | March 29, 2020 | 12:00 AM
Andrea Dempster-Chung

After the recent announcement of COVID-19 relief efforts for the ‘informal’ sector - that a programme is being developed for taxi and bar operators, barbers, hairdressers, market vendors, and domestic workers - follows the question, what about the cultural and creative industries?

Finance Minister Nigel Clarke divulged the Government’s efforts to assist cushioning the broad group of persons who may not be formally employed and are subsequently suffering loss of revenue due to the pandemic. However, as highlighted by Kingston Creative’s Andrea Dempster-Chung, the group may be much larger than is currently being identified.

“We haven’t gotten a specific response yet, but the survey we’ve done indicates about 40 per cent of creatives may need emergency relief as individuals. It seems that there does need to be a government response that supports creative entrepreneurs,” Dempster-Chung observed during the Honey Bun Foundation Virtual Summit (via Zoom, Facebook) last week.

The creative economy includes visual arts (paintings, sculptures, photography); performing arts (dance, music, theatre); culinary arts; media or digitised creative content (books, film, television, radio, podcasts, gaming). It also includes heritage, which covers museums, exhibitions, and cultural sites. It also includes functional creations like interior, fashion, and jewellery designers. “A lot of the micro, small, and medium enterprises in Jamaica fall within the creative economy,” Dempster-Chung outlined.

She presented her ‘critical conversation for a critical time’, with specific attention to the creative, or the Orange Economy. Alongside other speakers, Michelle Chong (Honey Bun Foundation, CEO), Senator Aubyn Hill, Marlene Street Forrest (Jamaica Stock Exchange, managing director), who offered critical comments from their respective industries, Dempster-Chung questioned if the Government would respond as other international governmental bodies have.


Some governments have already responded to the COVID-19 crisis with robust support of small and medium-size enterprises, cultural businesses, and artists. Recently, the German federal government rolled out an aid package valued at €50 billion, to which their culture minister, Monica Grütters, said, “Artists are not only indispensable, but vital, especially at this time.”

Comparatively, The Arts Fund in England launched a emergency-relief package for creative organisations and artists. But it’s not all up to the Government. “Creators also need to become more resilient and to innovate. It’s not just about what the Government is doing. What are you doing for you? If there are creatives on the call, we need to rethink doing business in the creative economy,” Dempster-Chung said.

She continued: “Reggae is intangible, but it has a huge value the world over. We need to ensure that both during and after this crisis has passed that the sector is vibrant and that artists are protected. It follows that musicians and other artists are going to be hardest hit, financially, by these cancelled events and this new era of social distancing.”