Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Hope Gardens responds to venue shortage

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

With very few suitable entertainment venues in the Corporate Area, it seems many promoters are turning to the Hope Botanical Gardens to host their events.

On one weekend in December, Hope Gardens hosted events like Live From Kingston, Soca VS Dancehall, Funfest, and other private functions. The following weekend was just as packed.

Andrew Bellamy, who has hosted events like SUNrise Breakfast Party, Soca Vs Dancehall and SUNset Cocoa Jouvert on the grounds of Hope Gardens, points to the limited number of venues in the Corporate Area, as the main reason for this.

"There is a limited number of venues in Kingston. A lot of the old venues have been blacklisted or are no longer as nice. So that is probably why we have such a rush to Hope Gardens. You don't have a lot of choices," he told The Gleaner.

His sentiments were echoed by Gyete Ghartey, who staged Funfest at the venue in December.

"A lot of potential venues are extremely close to residential areas and you need somewhere with parking. And it is just a nice venue and very easy to work with," he said.

LIMITED FUNDS

And with limited funds to maintain more than 200 acres of land, the Nature Preservation Foundation that runs Hope Gardens answered the call.

Leslie Chung, executive director of the foundation, explained that, although the grounds are government-owned, the funds from the Government only cover about 25 to 30 per cent of their annual recurring budget.

Based on the gap in the budget, he said, they have been renting spaces at Hope Gardens to help cover the shortfall while "maintaining the venue in its pristine condition".

However, "we try not to overdo it, because we want to protect the interests of the neighbourhood," he said.

Chung explained that they try to have controlled parties and other discreet events that "do not cause any undue discomfort to the surrounding community".

He further noted that it is a preferred venue for many because of the "proximity, accessibility and safety factor".

But he stressed that there is also a focus on having weddings in the park, as well as other outdoor wellness and fitness activities. Other events that are held at Hope Gardens include corporate cocktail parties, launches, fashion shows, jazz concerts and band concerts.

"Those are the events that we are promoting, while maintaining Hope Gardens as that nice green space with manicured lawns," Chung told The Gleaner.

Despite the economic constraints being faced in Jamaica, he says they have been managing to cover costs.

"Given the severe economic situation, we are not able to charge the adequate rate for the facility. We try to make it affordable, but at least put it at a cost where we can cover cost and have a little surplus," he said.