Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
Central St James Member of Parliament (MP) Lloyd B. Smith said that he is aiming for a cultural revival in Montego Bay, which will include making improvements to the Montego Bay Civic Centre in Sam Sharpe Square.
In a recent interview with Western Focus, Smith said he has been working on a number of initiatives aimed at the revitalisation of the Civic Centre, which he wants to be a cultural centre for local residents and tourists visiting the Second City.
"I had made certain initiatives with that in mind," said Smith. "I did quite a lot of lobbying for the J$30 million improvement to the Civic Centre, which was announced recently. I have gone ahead and set about the establishment of a Montego Bay Arts Council, which is going to be working with the St James Parish Council's cultural committee to bring the centre fully up to standard."
Continued Smith: "The vision is to have a full-fledged museum and art gallery and the Institute of Jamaica is excited about providing us with items to put in the museum and the art gallery."
The Central St James MP further stated that he is currently in dialogue with stakeholders in Montego Bay to establish a management committee for the Civic Centre and build a theatre to organise plays.
"The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) had announced that there will be a multimillion-dollar package for the Civic Centre facility. I am hoping that that will be available soon," Smith said.
PERMANENT PLAYHOUSE NEEDED
"I'm looking at the establishment of a playhouse, because right now, Montego Bay lacks a permanent playhouse. I had some earlier discussions with Glendon Harris (Montego Bay's mayor) for the parish council to provide some land space, and once that space has been provided, then I'll be going to national and international bodies to see how I can get the necessary finances for it," Smith stated.
Josef Forstmayr, chairman of the Montego Bay Arts Council, said that western Jamaica now has a clear opportunity to focus on the development of art and culture.
"I don't think we have really had a serious focus on art, but there is certainly an opportunity now between the parish council and elected officials in the western region," said Forstmayr. "Between the TEF and the tourism community in general, we have an opportunity to create something wonderful, a western outpost of the National Gallery. The Institute of Jamaica, which is the custodian of our art and sculptures would set that up for us in Montego Bay, preferably in the Civic Centre," continued Forstmayr.
"The possibility exists for us to create a really interesting and worthwhile institution for the people in Montego Bay, for schools to go to and also to provide a wonderful attraction for our visitors and bring people back into downtown. We're working at ways to make that happen now."