New home for Reggae Month celebrations
Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer
According to the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) at the recent launch of Reggae Month, hosted at the Louise Bennett Garden Theatre, this year's celebrations will be executed at the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road, a move from its former home at the Emancipation Park in New Kingston.
JaRIA's Youth Representative Director Abishai Hoilett told The Gleaner the move should not be seen as a scaling down of the annual celebration, but an expansion. Hoilett disclosed that the organisers of Reggae Month were unable to fully develop the pro-duct, because the Emancipation Park had too many limitations.
"We thought it was important at this time. We started at Edna Manley College and we outgrew that venue after a couple years. We then moved our major shows to Emancipation Park and now its time to move on. Emancipation Park served its purpose for a time, in that we had some excellent shows and the public became more aware of what we were doing. But as we widened and deepened the calendar of events, we realised the venue was not conducive to some of the events we wanted to have," he said.
According to the director, in previous staging of Reggae Month celebrations, patrons were sometimes confused as to where the events would be hosted, because the month did not have one designated home. However, that confusion will be eliminated with the decision to move the majority of its major events to the Ranny Williams Entertainment centre.
"We have the Open University discussions which are smaller and more forum-like and interactive discussions. For events like those, we want people to get involved and share their views. Emancipation Park is not the best place for that, also the reggae symposium and things of that nature. We were constantly moving about, and in terms of our promotions and getting people aware, that venue was more of a hindrance to what we were doing. So the best thing was to find one home, create a village, and for the entire month we use that village for all our events," he said.
Hoilett says the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre, was tested last year and the result was favourable. However, he did admit that it would take a while for Jamaicans to adapt to the new developments. He, therefore, explained that JaRIA would be executing a media campaign to make persons aware of the changes.
Getting The Word Out
"Through the help of our media partners, we are getting the word out, that Ranny Williams is the place to be. We do expect that it will take a little time for the word to filter out to everyone. The walk-by traffic and the drive-by traffic that we usually get at New Kingston, we might not get as much. But we will make up for that, because we have been growing over the years and more people are now loyal to the events and they enjoy themselves when they come out. It is not a tone down, we are actually going bigger with the event," he told The Gleaner.
This year, JaRIA will pay homage to reggae music greats via the JaRIA Honour Award ceremony, while Open University forums will see panelists speaking on Women in Reggae, The Legalisation of Marijuana, Sound System Culture and the Noise Abatement Act, among other issues. The celebrations will last for the entire month of February. The calendar of events can be found online at http://www.jariajamaica.com.