Currie wants to partner with tourism ministry to improve Accompong festival
Accompong Chief Richard Currie says he is looking to collaborate with the Ministry of Tourism to improve the annual Maroon festival in his St Elizabeth enclave.
Last Friday, scores of locals and tourists, who attended the festival to commemorate the 285th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between the Maroons and the British, were treated to a captivating display of Maroon culture.
While sharing his intention to expand the event to a three-day festival, Currie told The Gleaner that a partnership with the Government would be “mutually beneficial”.
“The tourism market is rich and hungry for experiential tourism, and when you talk about off the beaten track, you don’t get more offbeat than in the Cockpit [Country]. I think that’s one avenue of looking at how we could work together in leading the way, as far as it relates to experiential tourism and wellness tourism that is a big buzz right now,” he said.
Charles Campbell, who travelled from British Columbia in Canada to attend the festival for the first time, said he was very impressed by the involvement of the St Elizabeth community.
“Every street, every shop, every person is all about the festival. I’m very into how all the people just celebrate their culture and are having a good time,” he told The Gleaner. “I’ve always been interested in Maroon culture, and Accompong, in particular. I know the role that Maroons play in Jamaican history, and I’ve always been interested in the Cockpit Country, too.”
Sixty-six-year-old Vincent Henry, who is from the neighbouring Rose Hall community in St Elizabeth, has been a food vendor at the event for the past 37 years. He said he makes the annual trek to the area not only to seek sales, but to also bask in the celebration of Accompong’s rich culture.
“It’s a season of celebration; we enjoy it,” he stated.
Karen Harris first learned of the festival last year after reading reports of a shooting at the event. Intrigued, the 58-year-old Jamaican, who has resided in Canada for the past 33 years, said she began to make plans to attend its next staging.
“Mi seh mi a come see what it’s like. Mi neva know something like dat deh a Jamaica,” she said, noting that she could not miss the event despite being confined to a wheelchair.
Unlike Harris, Nzinga Nyabinghi had known of the festival for years but had stayed away because of negative reports. This year, she decided to attend and she was not disappointed.
“All I’m feeling in this community right now from the people who are here is just love, love, love,” she said.
One man was killed and five others, including two boys, left nursing gunshot injuries after a shooting at the event last year. The police had issued a warning against staging the event, saying that a staging would be in breach of orders under the Disaster Risk Management Act.
Currie said that the issues encountered last year strengthened the resolve of community members to make this year’s staging a success.
“We had an issue last year. People in the community were more focused [this time around] to showcase what this is about, the legacy and the culture of the Maroons,” he said.
Opposition Leader Mark Golding, who attended the festival on Friday, extolled the significance of the event.
“The preservation of these important events should not be met with any resistance. Instead, we should welcome and embrace the Maroons’ contribution to the distinctiveness and diversity of our culture. We should encourage the continued protection of that culture and assist them to promote it for economic and psychological well-being,” he said.
Currie said proceeds from the festival will be reinvested in the community, including propping up a feeding programme for the indigent, servicing the roads, and building an entrepreneurial centre for youth.
“It’s all about the people, it’s all about infrastructure, and plans that will be of benefit to the people,” he said.