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Ja Fun in the Son goes for 'voluntourism'

Published:Wednesday | March 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Tommy Cowan of Glory Music.
A patron enjoys the blessing at Fun in the Son 2016, held at National Heroes Circle, Kingston.
Hands raised in exaltation at Fun in the Son 2016.

In its beginning as Gospel on the Beach in 2002, what later developed into Fun in the Son, was literally and figuratively set smack in the middle of the spring break activities. At the time some of the celebrations of a deluge of mainly U.S., students revelling in time off from college, created some concerns, even as spring break generated tourism income.

A bit over 15 years later, as Fun in the Son returns to being run by its creators, Glory Music, the change signalled by the name adjustment to Jamaica Fun in the Son from Best Dressed Fun in the Son (Best Dressed Chicken producers Jamaica Broilers remains a major sponsor of the event) bringing in persons from overseas is part of the new thrust. Jamaica Fun in the Son 2018 takes place at the National Heroes Circle, Kingston, on Saturday, July 14.

"We already have Christian groups coming in and we are working with the diaspora to let them know what is happening," said Tommy Cowan of Glory Music.

The community-based venture is two-pronged, as those who visit will assist those who live in Jamaica and also, hopefully, take away a first-hand impression of Jamaica that is different from prevailing media narratives.


Different space


"We are trying to develop a space where people know there are worshipping people, God-loving Jamaicans. It is not the criminals and the drug users," Cowan added.

Naomi Cowan, also of Glory Music, said that the visitors "will participate in voluntourism", a term which the British and World English Oxford Dictionary online defines as "a form of tourism in which travellers participate in voluntary work, typically for a charity."

"That is what we are encouraging," she said. "When people do things like entering communities, they get to know the heart of the people. Not only will they be giving, but they will experience the best of Jamaica and understand why it is such a global brand."

A line-up has been selected, and an announcement of who will perform at this year's Jamaica Fun in the Son will soon be made. And, as Glory Music develops what is positioned to be as the largest gospel festival in the English-speaking Caribbean, going back to an annual staging instead of a biennial format is being considered. (The event was last held in 2016).

Plus, Naomi Cowan said, "Throughout the year, we will be doing more events in the communities. These smaller events are meant to give Jamaica Fun in the Son additional momentum as a movement, rather than a one-off large event."