My Kingston: Dr Wykeham McNeill

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment

Sunday, January 20, 2013

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What's your earliest memory of Kingston?

I think my first distinctive memory of Kingston would be of the house we lived in at Bedford Park. My strongest memory as a youngster is the community where I grew up. Everyone in the community knew you and when they say it takes a village to raise a child, trust me, the entire village had a hand in raising me, and I was known to give a little trouble.

What is your most memorable meal in Kingston?

I really am a fan of curried goat and one of the best that I have had was at Kingston Cricket Club.

What do you miss most when you are away from Kingston?

As a member of parliament, I spend a lot of time in western Westmoreland in particular, and what you tend to have there is a more laid-back existence, whereas Kingston is more hustle and bustle; I think it's good to have both.

What would you do if you were mayor of Kingston for a day?

I think the greatest strength of Kingston is the culture that it generates, and I think as a mayor one of the things that I would like to see is how we could get involved in finding a way to expose more of our cultural activities, especially in downtown Kingston. Focus on how to recapture what has made our music and culture that came out of places like Trench Town, how we can restore the mood that existed so that more of that conscious vibe that was coming out of it in earlier days can be restored.

What's your beverage of choice?

I am not a big drinker. Occasionally I will drink a rum and Coke socially, or vodka with cranberry juice.

Did you make any resolutions for 2013?

I was very enthusiastic about the new year as I feel there is so much we can, should and will do, and I am fired up about it. My usual resolutions were to eat healthily and exercise, and I will say I am about 65 per cent at maintaining them.

Share the title of the last book you read.

I am actually reading In Miserable Slavery by Douglas Hall that details the history of Westmoreland. It is a transcription of the diary of an Englishman who came to Westmoreland as an overseer back in the 18th century. It is a chronicle of slavery. It's interesting for me because he speaks of places such as a farm called Egypt which is in my constituency, and it gives you an understanding of how the names of some of the places originated. Interestingly, it shows the relationships that existed and you realise what our ancestors had to put up with as slaves, and what is interesting is there was a quiet rebellion taking place. It's an excellent read and I have only finished the first chapter.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

I am a Black Uhuru fan so anything by them works for me. As a matter of fact, I can never forget as a young medical doctor driving into Kingston from Ocho Rios and arriving at Cinema Two to watch Black Uhuru and we were there until two in the morning, and they came on and said there will be no Black Uhuru tonight, and my band broke up that night.

As the minister with responsibility for entertainment, what are your thoughts on our music landscape at the moment? Do you think there is a shortfall in regard to the state of our popular dancehall music?

Yes, I think there is a shortfall from the context that one of the things we are looking at is putting more structure into it. We are looking at the registering of artistes, areas of copyright, looking at how we can expose more of our entertainment, looking at the Noise Abatement Act as well. But, also, there is the element of looking at how we can put the structures in place to improve the background of those artistes we have, and host seminars in schools and universities for them.

What's your personal take on dancehall music?

There is dancehall that I love. In 1997 my campaign song was Beenie Man's. In 2002 it was Buju. The fact of the matter is that I am always open-minded about all cultural expressions because I remember how my parents felt about my generation's taste in music, and I suspect that was how my grandparents felt about my parents' musical tastes. There is a generational trend to it. Some of the factors that give longevity to our expressions are things that have meanings with perpetuity, and I will be attending one night of Rebel Salute because I think it is a conscious festival and I think we should always be aiming to have our music put us in a positive direction. We also should appreciate that in a lot of ways, while music may make an impression on society, in a lot of ways, society is what generates it.

There is some public worry about the state of the economy in the year ahead. Do you think your ministry will help buffer what some consider to be an economic tsunami this year?

Absolutely. We are helping already as we are one of the drivers of the economy. We are hoping to constantly improve our tourist numbers and we are already doing well with that, even though we have our ups and downs. We are also looking at how we can deepen the linkages to earn and retain more of the revenue from tourism in the country by working with the agriculture, manufacturing and investment sectors. We are very optimistic about investments. We have persons coming into Jamaica to take existing tourism products and add to them in Negril and Trelawny.

What cologne are you splashing?

I don't use cologne.

What was your last bit of retail therapy?

I am not a big retail therapist, but the last big splurge would have been Christmas presents for my kids.

Share some places in your black book.

I enjoy London, which is one of my favourite cities; New York; I studied for years in Cuba, which I have a great affinity for; and I enjoy Spain. In the last year, I travelled twice to Russia.

What is your philosophy?

One must work hard and with integrity and look for the best in people. I get great satisfaction from working that way.




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