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Kingston stands unrivalled - Creative city concept still strong within Jamaica's capital

Published:Tuesday | January 29, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Bob Marley
Dr Donna Hope, senior lecturer, Cultural Studies, University of the West Indies, Mona campus.
Edna Manley, one of the architects of Jamaica's art landscape. - File

Curtis Campbell, Gleaner Writer

Is Kingston officially Jamaica's creative city? The creative city was a concept that was put forward by urbanist Charles Laundry in the 1980s to reflect the notion that countries can achieve development through creativity, open-mindedness, imagination and harnessing the cultural credentials of its people.

The philosophy behind creative cities is that there is always the existence of creative potential in a place. It explores the idea that proper conditions are needed for people to think, plan and act in accordance with their creative imagination.

With the relevant condition provided, creative minds can develop themselves or their community using the tools at their disposal.

Does Kingston fit into that category?

According to Dr Donna Hope, it does. She even expounded on the nature of Kingston, making mention of creative products outside of music.

"A creative city is one that incorporates cultural diversity and creative innovation within its boundaries so that its cultural resources are exploited and expressed. It is one in which particular urban cultural resources exist and are used to express the cultural specificity of that city and by extension its people and country," she continued.

"Kingston does fit into this classification because it stands as a primary location in Jamaica where specific urban cultural resources exist and are brought to life in diverse ways. For example, there is the utilisation of sites like Devon House and Port Royal and the existence of multiple art galleries and related locations. In addition, the role of Kingston is central in the development and showcasing of multiple cultural products around particular areas of our indigenous culture such as language, comedy, fashion, food, dance, sports, visual arts, performing arts, literature and so many others," she said.

The capacity of Kingston to enhance one's creative ability has contributed to the migration of creative minds to the capital. Hence, making it harder for rural areas to become creative cities in their own right, a situation which might resemble brain drain.

Reggae/dancehall artistes like the legendary Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Tony Rebel, Coco Tea, Barrington Levy, Capleton, Ninja Man and I-Octane among others are all migrants from rural areas. However, in an effort to launch their careers, they relocated to Kingston, the creative city.

The contribution of Kingston to the legacy of Jamaican music is undeniable and despite the growth and development of other parishes like Montego Bay, Kingston still continues to be the mecca for creative minds.

What is also noticeable is that even though some rural areas have achieved credible levels of development, they have failed to pose a threat to Kingston's dominance as the creative city.


While Montego Bay is the closest to Kingston as a creative city, a significant example of the difference between the two is the rise of dancehall artiste Tommy Lee Sparta.

Tommy Lee Sparta was a recording artiste based in Montego Bay for more than two years.

However, it was only when the artiste decided to make the move to Kingston that he was he able to take his career to new heights.

According to Tommy Lee's publicist Keona Williams, Kingston has the right structure in place.

"I think how the structure is set up makes it easier for music to be successful. There are a lot of studios here and more people to work with from the industry. It also has more resources. Adding to that, Kingston has more competition and that pushes artistes to work harder," Williams said.

The cultural potency of Kingston as the creative city remains undisputed and indomitable. Dr Hope calls Kingston the hub of Jamaica's creativity.

"Kingston, in the development of Jamaican popular music, remains an important factor in the centrality of this city to Jamaica's location as a global cultural/creative hub. Visitors to the island who are interested in Jamaican culture usually have to make a visit to Kingston to ensure that they 'ground' with many of the sites and people who remain central to the cultural and creative energies that are both Kingston and Jamaican," Dr Donna Hope concluded.

Bob Marley is now regarded as an international musical legend, however, would he have achieved that kind of success if he had stayed in St Ann in an effort to launch his career?