What does Jamaica celebrate? Reggae music, dance and dancehall, visuals arts, literature, food – just to name a few themes of festivals held on the island.
Besides being fun and entertaining, well-managed festivals and events offer a host of social and economic benefits to the communities in which they are staged.
“People should want Jamaica to become a festival country that offers the customers or visitors packages for ‘X’ things that are happening, not just settle to be known as a creative city or having active communities,” Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, expert on enterprise development and country director at The British Council, told The Gleaner during the recent Festival X seminar and workshop.
The British Council partnered with the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission for the recent inaugural staging of Festival X and invited a long list of local industry professionals to participate in a panel discussion. Among the ‘Going Global’ panellists were CEO of Downsound Entertainment Joe Bogdanovich; Dream Entertain-ment director Scott Dunn; Justine Henzell of the Calabash International Literary Arts Festival; and Patrick ‘Tony Rebel’ Barrett, recording artiste and founder of Rebel Salute.
Room To Collaborate
Each spoke of the impact their events have had on community tourism as well as on promoting Jamaica on a global scale. When The Gleaner asked about the possibility of a collaboration between the four of them, Dunn quickly took to the microphone and said, “While it may be a bit extreme to have a festival collaboration that features aspects of all their events, there is more room to collaborate on festivals with different layers.”
Tony Rebel added, “The idea of ‘Dream-Bash-Fest-Salute’ (coined from the names of the events each of them hosts) is one that can be made a reality, but as far as details go, there has to be initiative for the promoters to knock heads.”
Festivals have long served as tools for sustainable competitiveness, but there were quite a few industry pro-fessionals present at the seminar who suggested a need for collaboration among various events. “For example, Joe’s event (Reggae Sumfest) is two weeks before our Dream Weekend, and there is a likely way to collaborate to make both events attractive to the other’s audience,” said Dunn.
One social value of a festival – no matter the form, whether stage show, symposium, or weeklong line-up of themed events – is the creation of stronger relationships within a community although the panellists stressed that most of the relationship-building occured in the festival planning phase – another point where collaboration would be beneficial.
According to Jacobs-Bonnick, these benefits last well beyond the event as people bring their connections, skills, and a collective knowledge to improve the community and further advance the country’s global image.
“The immediate and deliberate response is that competition is good, it is healthy, but all these festival owners, planners, and promoters can come around a table for the greater good,” she said. “It is a win-win situation. That is the aim of the seminar: to enable all professionals to see the importance of coming together.”
The plan going forward is to host Festival X annually and invite persons not only from the island, but from overseas, to add their two cents, which would eventually encourage collaboration and be a platform for information and cultural exchange.