THE Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) yesterday dismissed suggestions that the annual Festival celebrations are dying.
According to acting chairman of the JCDC Fae Ellington, Festival — the annual local celebration of Jamaican culture — is "very much alive and kicking".
Ellington, addressing Jamaica Observer reporters and editors at the newspaper's weekly Monday Exchange, said Festival activities were much more than the four-to-six-week calendar of activities which culminate with the observance of Independence Day on August 6.
"If you consider Festival to be the activities from July to August 6 each year, then you don't understand the process; it is pretty much a 12-month process," said Ellington.
She cited the record number of entrants in this year's visual arts competition — 850 — as an example of the interest which still exists in the activities of the Festival movement and the JCDC.
JCDC Acting Executive Director Delroy Gordon agreed, and provided numbers to support his and Ellington's statements. He noted that this year saw 11,000 entries for the performing arts competitions — music, speech, dance, drama, and the traditional folk forms — an all-time high.
With regard to the Festival Song Competition, Gordon further staved off comments that interest in that competition was also waning. "I would say it is very much alive; it's not dying. This year we had in excess of 200 entries and even after the close of entries there were so many persons enquiring. So, is there interest in it? Yes!" he said.
For Ellington, the local media should take blame for not keeping this aspect of our the nation's culture alive. "Somehow, the interest and understanding by local media of the importance of this support has waned," she said.
In the meantime, activities this year include a 'Best of Festival' showcase which will feature some of the top performers from the festival of the performing arts. This will run for three weeks — July 9 to 27 — and will feature two shows daily at the National Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.
The JCDC will also set up a Golden Jubilee Village at Independence Park from August 1 to 6. "The upper floor of the National Arena will house a prelude to the soon-to-be-established sports museum. And then on the ground floor, we will have an exposition by government and private sector agencies showcasing their achievements and accomplishments over the past 50 years. The general parking lot will see the main stage for the nightly performances," Gordon explained.
This village will see a number of events, ranging from the Mello-Go-Roun', the World Reggae Dance Championships and Festival Nostalgia — a concert featuring past Festival Song winners. There will also be the sale of art and craft and Jamaica 50 memorabilia, a food court, and a performance stage.
In addition to the national events taking place in the Corporate Area, each parish capital is set to stage tits own activities to commemorate the golden milestone.
The JCDC's Director of Field Services Marjorie Leyden-Vernon, said some 80 street dances have been registered with the Commission to take place across the island.