Fri | Aug 28, 2015

Hugh Nash, cultural development legend

Published:Saturday | December 22, 2012
Hugh Nash (left), chairman of JCDC, presents Jerome Smith with the winner's trophy for the 2011 Gospel Song Competition.
Hugh Nash, festival officer, in this July 1967 file photo.-File
Opposition Leader Portia Simpson-Miller (left) chats with Culture Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange and Hugh Nash, chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission, at the Independence Day Gala, National Stadium, on Wednesday, August 6, 2008.

Valerie Dixon, Contributor

MANDEVILLE, Manchester:MANY YOUNG people do not readily recognise his name, but Hugh Nash is a cultural icon who has vast knowledge about the history and culture of Jamaica and his home parish Manchester in particular. The Jamaica Festival and annual Independence celebration and Heritage Week festivals, Mello-Go-Roun, the Festival Queen Competition, and much of the content and presentations which we now take for granted, were his original ideas and adaptations. He was awarded the Commander of Distinction for services in the field of culture and community development, in 2009.

As a young student who was heavily involved in the 4-H Movement, Hugh Nash was chosen to represent the youth in the colony of Jamaica at the coronation of our Head of State, Queen Elizabeth II. He remained in the United Kingdom for four months, representing the Council of Voluntary Social Services and the Jamaica Agricultural Society, and gained a lot of experience and exposure to the various cultures that made up the British Empire.

He completed his elementary schooling at the Coley Mountain Primary School and went on to the Jamaica School of Agriculture and also completed courses at Cornel and Wisconsin universities. His first job was with the 4-H Club as an organiser. He next went to the Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Board and soon became involved with community development and the welfare of the workers on the estates.

a true patriot

Nash can be described as a true patriot as, when Jamaica attained Independence in 1962, he worked with the new government and helped to ensure that "culture became an integral part in the upliftment of the lives of working people".

He recounted meeting with government Chief Press Officer Hartley Neita who told him that the new minister of planning and development, Edward Seaga, had a five-year plan and wanted someone to devise a proposal that would interpret his ideas and reflect his requirements. Nash went to work and devised a proposal that was accepted by Seaga, and he was immediately seconded to the ministry for cultural development.

It is amazing to hear the names of the persons with whom he collaborated to ensure that every aspect of culture was represented in establishing cultural agencies and national events. It shows the calibre of Hugh Nash, as many today would take all the credit for themselves - which highlights the quotation that "success has many parents, but failure is an orphan". The list includes such stalwarts as Wycliffe Bennett, Theodore Sealy, Sir Cyril Henriques and Dr Joyce Robinson, among others.

Nash said he integrated culture into the Social Development Commission and included the works of Louise Bennett into its programme and had collaboration with famous dance troupe leaders Ivy Baxter and Joyce Campbell, becoming known as 'Mr Festival'. He said that, in 1964, the Festival Office was formed to be responsible for culture. A bill was tabled in Parliament in 1968, establishing the Jamaica Festival Commission. The measure received the full support of the entire government and opposition. This commission was later upgraded and became the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission in the 1970s, and Nash became its first director. He added that Seaga conceptualised and implemented 'Things Jamaican, Ltd' as the National Craft Development Enterprise, in 1968. The Enterprise acquired and restored historic Devon House as a centre to promote Jamaican handicraft and cuisine.

Nash also discloses that the Jamaica Trust Commission was upgraded in 1985 to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust (JNHT), and he left Things Jamaican to structure the JNHT as its director. He explains that the JNHT is responsible for the protection and management of the heritage resources of the nation.

Nash speaks proudly about organising the first Conference of Caribbean Culture-leaders, hosted by Jamaica, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and the University of the West Indies, out of which came CARIFESTA. Observers came to this conference from Canada, the Smithsonian Institute in the United States, Venezuela, Britain and France, and were so impressed with our cultural leadership in Jamaica that Hector Wynter was later appointed chairman of the UNESCO board.


There is hardly another Jamaican I can think of who is more knowledgeable than Hugh Nash on all matters cultural. I am thankful that I had the privilege of learning so much oral history from him, and it helped and enabled Dr Sultana Afroz, (former history lecturer at UWI), Dorrett Smith (a graduate history student), and I to do extensive research and corroborate his wonderful knowledge of the history of the seven Free Villages in Manchester - Maidstone, Porus, Zorn (or Beulah), Mitzpah, Walderston (corruption of Walder's stand), Betharbara, and Somerset (or Buyland). Because of this research and field study, as the then chairman of the Manchester Cultural Development Committee, I organised and implemented the first Fus A Augus Fair in Maidstone - Manchester's first Free Village.

I now take time out to say "Thank you, Mr Hugh Nash", you are a living legend of Manchester.