Rae Town lockdown hurts community
Published: Monday | December 7, 2009
A part of the crowd at a Rae Town oldies street party. - file
Rae Town, Kingston, has the singular distinction of being the only community in Jamaica whose name is synonymous with the music event it has hosted for nearly 30 years, organised by 'Miss Norma' around the Capricorn Inn.
It is something of a rarity, even outside Jamaica. For while a huge event like the Notting Hill Carnival in England is directly associated with the community after which it is named, as an annual event it does not occur with the frequency required to make the name of the party and the area interchangeable.
To many, 'Rae Town', as the oldies party is sometimes referred to, is synonymous with the community Rae Town in which it is kept.
The mother of the street dance phenomenon in Jamaica came to an end on Father's Day this year - at least, in its long established format of a party, running the wee hours of Monday morning, in the open air, a few hundred metres from the sea.
Hurting the community
The police have refused to issue the operators of the street dance a permit if they do not adhere to the stipulated midnight cut-off time. Pointing out that other street parties which should have been closed down at midnight are continuing all over the city, has made absolutely no difference.
There is no doubt that the community is hurting. In a story published in The STAR on July 25, about a month after the axe fell, well-known Rae Town resident Mama Bird said "a it mek my daughter go tru primary school, til she pass go St Hugh's, go six form an now she a do har bachelor's degree".
Another resident, Captain Lloyd, said "it a stress to mi now ... a it me use sen' me grandchildren go school".
Walking down the road towards where the sound system was set up in Rae Town on a Sunday night, was a trip through a commercial enterprise turning on the hub of music. Drinks, snacks, sugar cane, chicken, fish and much more were available from the vendors. Many of the community's shops were open for business. Remarkably, the prices tended to be much lower than those at other such events, in keeping with the laid-back atmosphere of the event.
'Big George' is a shop owner, who stocks a wide variety of items. He was used to opening late to accommodate the Rae Town oldies crowd. He still oprates on a Sunday night, but said he has implemented strategies, like putting out chairs and a table to host those who wish to make themselves more comfortable and encourages them to stay awhile.
"Basically, it's a thing which involves the whole community. So obviously anybody on the economic side of it will earn. It is more than the promoter can handle, so you will have spillover. So the community will benefit," he said.
Who is affected
He points out, though, that "out of fairness you have people who do not really participate, who have to go work Monday morning, so it will be a bother to them."
When the old hits street party was on, he would open up to 3:30 a.m. on Monday. Now, he closes between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.
With his shop positioned well away from the former hub of the street party, Big George said he kept his prices low to attract customers, while those "in the clump" could get away with raising their prices. "People in the party no have no qualm 'bout spending," he said.
Now, he said "me create my atmosphere. I put out my chair." Still, Big George said, "there is a difference. The old hits is a guaranteed dollar."
"There is a positive and a negative to the party. If you count dollars alone you will discount all that," Big George said.
Enjoying themselves at a Rae Town street dance.