Call for entertainment sector reopening

Entertainment

Call for entertainment sector reopening

An open letter to the Government of Jamaica

Sunday, January 24, 2021

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The following is an abbreviated version of an open letter to the Government of Jamaica from Scott Dunn, managing director of Dream Entertainment Limited, encouraging the reopening of the entertainment industry.

DEAR Editor:

I was home! Finally, back in my ecosystem, after '10 months of quarantine'.

“These are my people,” I thought, with tears welling up in my eyes. They were DJs, bartenders, bouncers, sound technicians, artistes, bottle girls, dancers, hookah vendors, and pan chicken vendors. I felt at home, but strangely I was in Miami, Florida — 928 km away from my home, home of the UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] City of Culture, Kingston. This was where I had escaped to for my company to host an event; this was my only opportunity to earn! This was where I felt an umbilical tie to all these people, who I actually don't even know personally but knew their roles so well — people who make their living from the events industry! This got me thinking about the people in our industry in Jamaica. Miami woke me up and I haven't slept since.

Dream Entertainment Limited is arguably the largest owner and producers of music festivals, carnivals and large events in the entire Caribbean. A 2020 Government study determined that the two events that have the highest economic impact for Jamaica (total of $9 billion) are events: Dream Weekend and carnival in Jamaica.

For 10 months, I have suffered in silence as the Government of Jamaica has left me and my ecosystem (my family) sitting on the bench.

I understand the risks large groups would cause in a pandemic, but I'm also fair. Under the Disaster Risk Management Act in Jamaica, only a maximum of 15 people are allowed to gather. However, when I returned to Jamaica from Florida a few days ago, the entire plane cabin was shoulder-to-shoulder (no social distancing among a group coming from a COVID-19 hotbed).

I have to deal with the contradiction that it's safe to be in a large wholesale club jockeying to buy Christmas gifts, but open-air parties are seen as a greater risk to our country.

If I choose to rent the National Stadium or Sabina Park — venues with capacities in the tens of thousands — I would be breaking the law to have 16 people there, even if they social distanced, sanitised and wore masks; even if they all did antigen tests in the car park and received negative results prior to entry. When we were allowed to open in the summer and have events, our company did micro parties, socially-distant tailgates, etc. We followed every rule in the book and the industry still got shut down. Yet, illegal parties are on the rise. The rule breakers were earning in 2020 and they are still earning now.

We need to be open like EVERY SINGLE OTHER INDUSTRY in Jamaica. Every other sector in Jamaica is allowed to operate even at limited capacity with some protocols. The events industry is the ONLY industry CLOSED.

We want to put food on our table like every other person in the labour force. A few days ago, I had to lay off more of my staff (my family). They need their jobs back. We need to reopen the events industry as this cannot continue!

The Government should then put a huge majority of relief funds for the ONLY industry still shut down. The events industry has not received one dollar to date.

Our events industry has helped to build Brand Jamaica and grow tourism, manufacturing, agriculture, financial services and other sectors. When the world returns to normal, we will be a critical part of the rebuilding, as people have been starved for entertainment. Events will see a boom like there has never been before — and we want to be ready for it, but if we are not allowed to operate even in a small way or get a reasonable lifeline of relief funds, we, the formal players, will all be bankrupt. The only people in the industry who will have money to weather the storm are the people operating illegally, they will be all you are left with to rebuild the events industry.

Perhaps, stricter quarantine and arrival protocols would allow way more relaxed day-to-day protocols for all residents here.

Allow us to operate…please…or if not, give us a relief package that actually will allow us to survive.

Yours respectfully,

SCOTT DUNN

Managing Director

Dream Entertainment Limited


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