EDITORIAL - Saving the Kingston craft market
The glory days of the Victoria Craft Market on Kingston's waterfront have long gone. Traditionally, the downtown market scene, whether for produce or craft, brought together people from all walks of life. But this former hub of craft activity has succumbed to the blight that has been eating away at the nation's capital and today vendors are teetering on the edge of collapse.
There was a time when visitors would flock to the vibrant craft market in downtown Kingston to scoop up items such as carved wood, bamboo trinkets, beaded jewellery, even footwear. But the crowds have ceased that trek downtown. With the growing reliance on the Internet, potential visitors are now likely to go online to learn about any country they plan to visit. The reviews for our craft markets are not very encouraging. They speak of the aggressive nature of the vendors, the lack of variety in the offerings, ganja being offered for sale and safety issues were also raised. Against such a background, the vendors cannot expect that the craft markets will get increased patronage.
Apart from any negative view which the market may get, the Kingston craft market itself is a run-down shell. In 2007, members of the Jamaica Defence Force were brought to the facility in the name of Cricket World Cup to give the place a facelift. They did some clearing up of the grounds, painted and undertook other remedial work. Vendors will say it was not a facelift because there was major roof and drainage work to be done. So it was not quite a facelift, more like an injection of Botox. The facility needs to be upgraded to make it more appealing.
Security in downtown Kingston is another worrying matter. It takes some convincing to get even battle-hardened Jamaicans to venture downtown Kingston, and there is no doubt that many visitors who would love to experience the sense of history that the craft market holds are not going to venture downtown.
The tragedy of the Kingston craft market is that the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) has simply shrugged its shoulder on the facility. And since the vendors at the craft market are mainly women, it would wreak untold hardships on them if the facility were to collapse and put them out of business.
The JTB should be helping to promote activities at the craft market. For small business to thrive, it has to be promoted. But finding money for promotion is perhaps one of the scarcest resources available to the small-business person. But the tourist board has a huge promotional budget and Minister Edmund Bartlett should make every effort to include the Kingston craft vendors in these efforts.
The private sector could also play a part in raising awareness of the craft business in downtown Kingston. Many north-coast properties have, in fact, opened up their properties to vendors who get an opportunity to showcase their goods to a wider audience and hopefully increase their sales.
With a new custos of Kingston who is focused on the revitalisation of the old city, in keeping with the prime minister's expressed intention, we hope the Kingston craft market can be helped in regaining some of its former glory.
The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: email@example.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.