A nation celebrates

Richard Johnson

Friday, August 03, 2012    

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The year is 1962 and 12 official days of celebrations have been planned to observe and celebration Jamaica's independence.

All across the island events and activities have been planned as Jamaicans observe the historic milestone and the birth of a new nation. However, the main events are being held in the Corporate Area, where a number of world leaders have been gathered, headed by Britain's Princess Margaret and husband The Earl of Snowdon, who represent Queen Elizabeth II.

In addition to being officious, a number of the events are celebratory and entertaining, showcasing the diverse culture of the young nation.

Even before the official 12-day celebration a roadside concert series is organised to travel throughout the country. This features Louise Bennett, Ranny Williams, Charles Hyatt, The Frats Quintet, Ivy Baxter and Eddy Thomas, Mapletoft Poulle and his orchestra. For the concert at the George VI memorial park in Kingston, the official programme notes: "The Hon. Seaga, M.H.R., Minister of Development and Welfare, will attend".

August 1, which was observed as a public holiday saw the opening performance of a dance Show, Root and Rhythms devised by Rex Nettleford and Eddy Thomas at Little Theatre.

The visual arts scene would also play its role in the celebration of the country's independence. A celebration show by Jamaica's leading artist Edna Manley opened at the City Art Centre located at 147 King Street in downtown Kingston.

On Friday, August 3, Jamaicans were invited to attend the dress rehearsal for the national parade and flag-raising at the National Stadium. This event was open to the public and no admission was charged.

By Saturday, August 4 the slate of national events reached its peak.

At 5:00 pm, the royals attended the Youth Rally, unveiled the Olympic statue and officially opened the stadium. Admission was by ticket and invite.

The programme for this rally featured displays by guides and scouts and a cadet drum corps and the performance of I Pledge My Heart, by a combined choir.

Other forms of entertainment during the 50-minute-long event included a flag formation — guides forming the Union Jack and the new Jamaican flag being formed by Scouts. Primary school girls performed a folk dance, while students from a number of primary schools entertained with folk songs.

Sunday August 5, 1962 was declared a national day of prayer. The visiting royals

attended a divine service at Spanish Town Cathedral at 9:00 am.

Other national activities on that day included the official opening of an exhibition of contemporary West Indian literature at the Kingston and St Andrew parish library by writer Vic Reid.

There was also a choir recital at the St Andrew Scots Kirk. Performers included the St Andrew Singers and a 400-voice children's choir. The performers were under the baton of conductor Lloyd Hall.

The University of the West Indies, Mona, was the stage for Jamaica: From Slavery to Independence — a historical pageant in three acts. Admission to this event was three shillings for adults and one shilling for children.

The highlight of the celebrations is the Flag Raising ceremony and fireworks at the National Stadium

The programme commences at 11:00 pm with the singing of patriotic songs. At minutes before midnight, a runner from the Boys' Brigade runs in with the Jamaican flag which is on the last lap of an islandwide run.

The British Union Jack is lowered and the 'black, green and gold hoisted for the first time. Both verse of the new Jamaican national anthem are played and sung by the audience and choirs inside the National Stadium and across Jamaica. The skies over the capital then light up with a fireworks display.

The celebrations continued islandwide on Independence Day August 6. These included a Gun Salute by ships of Commonwealth and United States navies in the Kingston harbour.





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