BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor - special assignment email@example.com
LONDON, England — Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence was celebrated in various forms here on Monday, but none seemed as widely anticipated than the Stay Green Promotions Independence Dance, held over the weekend in Tottenham, North London.
Bus loads of Jamaicans travelled from as far as Birmingham to attend the annual event which was said to be the biggest and the best ever staged.
It was almost like a fashion parade as Jamaicans became creative with the nation's colours of black green and gold, adorning themselves in some of the most fashionable designs.
The old and young mingled as they converged in the hall at the Tottenham Green Leisure Centre, which was beautifully draped in Jamaican colours.
The selections of reggae music featured favourites for the more mature crowd, those in between, and the younger generation, as some of Jamaica's top DJs in the UK — Cowboy, Master D, Complex and Daddy P — dug deep in their repertoire of Jamaican hits.
The older patrons, a number of whom have been living in Britain for close to a half a century, did not forget dance moves from the ska era as they displayed some fancy footwork on the dance floor, while the younger showed the latest dance moves.
At 4:30 am Tuesday, when the last selection was played, more than 800 very satisfied Jamaicans were still left at the venue, reluctant to close the curtain on what was another incident-free and wonderful celebration of Jamaica's music.
Promoter Michael Gardiner, who has been living in the UK for the last 40 years, said he created a nice market for the more mature Jamaicans who always look forward to the yearly event.
Stay Green, said to be the biggest promotion company in North London, also hosts annual Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day dances.
Gardiner said his event is one of those which the city council has never refused a licence for its staging.
"Sometimes we have as many as 1,000 people at these events," Gardiner told the Jamaica Observer, adding that he has been getting good support from other Caribbean and English nationals.
He said he went all out to ensure that this year's event was bigger and better and provided the perfect authentic Jamaican ambience for patrons to celebrate the nation's 50th anniversary of Independence.
"I had a couple bus loads of people coming all the way from Birmingham to support us," he said, adding that the tickets were sold out.
Gardiner, meanwhile, said most of his events are geared towards the more mature artistes as the younger ones tend to pull a particular type of crowd. "Dancehall brings a different more younger crowd and they tend to bring problems," he said.
He added that all of his events have remained incident-free over the years, so much so that he was able to boast that his event was permitted even during last year's August London riots, when a number of other events were cancelled.
Gardiner, who hails from Cairncurran close to Darliston in Westmoreland, said he became involved in music when his parents brought him a record player, which he used to have house parties after school. That was his introduction to the music industry 25 years ago.
He said the name Stay Green Promotions came about when he encouraged the young people to stay away from drugs and remain "young fresh and green".
Proceeds from his annual events go to his alma mater, the Cairncurran All-ge School, to help with sponsorship of an annual community cricket event in the district.