Sat | Mar 25, 2023

Music and More | Rebuilding the silly event season

Published:Friday | April 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke/Gleaner Writer
Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett (centre) samples one of the many offerings at the Blue Mountain Coffee Festival held in Newcastle. Also enjoying the experience are (from left) Adam Stewart, chairman of the Tourism Linkages Council; Juliet Holness, member of parliament for for East Rural St Andrew; Jennifer Griffith, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Tourism; and Nicola Madden-Grieg, chairman, Gastronomy Network. The three-day festival was staged along the Blue Mountain Culinary Trail, and featured Jamaican food, coffee, indigenous arts and crafts, and live reggae music performances.
Teecee Chau and Malina Tang journeyed all the way from Montreal Canada, to play mas with Xaymaca International.

As the organisers of Carnival in Jamaica 2018 revel in the record number of visitors it attracted (over 50,000 arrivals have been connected to the season by Tourism Minister Ed Bartlett), I am looking at the calendar of large-scale entertainment events in Jamaica, and wondering if it is getting to the point of the silly season.

The silly season is a term I associate with Howard Mc-Gowan, a former journalist and editor at The Gleaner, who in the late 1980s to mid-1990s would write about the slate of large-scale Jamaican popular music concerts (stage shows) in the year-end period. There would be shows across the island on consecutive days, often with the same major performers as there are only so many to go around. Inevitably, there would be some failures in terms of audience attendance, and, over time, they faded to leave only GT Taylor Christmas Extravaganza on Christmas Day, and Sting on Boxing Day. Now there is only one from that period.


Government support


As I look at Jamaica's thrust towards entertainment to drive economic progress, I wonder if we will get into the equivalent of the stage show silly season, with the support of the Government this time. And while the stage shows directly targeted a Jamaican audience, with the attraction to foreigners part of their growth through the diaspora and recordings, the government-supported events have a definite tourist bent.

So while Reggae Month has long been established in February, the new Reggae Icons concert is the centrepiece intended to bring in persons from overseas in droves to Kingston in particular. From that month of activities, it is straight into the Carnival season, full blast to the peak Road March. Before that, though, there is the Coffee Festival in Newcastle, St Andrew, which started this year but is sure to grow.

You would have noticed the trend here - that the new or newly invigorated events in the early part of the year are centred around Kingston, so there is that intention to revive the city as a tourist spot (not that they aren't already coming for the dances, but this is a whole new level). Casting an eye over the rest of the year, the events are more widespread and, from the Calabash International Literary Festival in Treasure Beach, St Elizabeth, in May, to the summer all-inclusive party series in Negril, varied in their offering. Sumfest in MoBay closes off the summer season, and then there is a lull for back to school before momentum gathers in the year-end run.

It is a lot and I not only wonder how sustainable it all is (despite market segmentation) but if Jamaicans will, in time, become largely bystanders to a parade of events they cannot afford.