Major changes to follow unveiling of Miss Lou's statue in Gordon Town

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

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A major transformation of Gordon Town Square in rural St Andrew is to follow last Friday's official unveiling of the statue of the late Jamaican folklorist and cultural icon, Louise Bennett-Coverley.

Speaking at the function, Prime Minister Andrew Holness stated that his Government is doing whatever is necessary to get economic value from the country's cultural assets.

“Very soon we will be making Kingston a port of call for cruise shipping. And we will be returning cruise ships to Port Royal and to Victoria Pier, and we will be working very hard to make Kingston a port of call,” he told the huge crowd that gathered in the square to hear from speakers about the value of the cultural icon more popularly known as “Miss Lou”, and the plans for upgrading Gordon Town where she lived most of her adult life.

Holness argued that, with these developments, tourists would not be coming into the Corporate Area just for monuments like the Bob Marley statue in Independence Park, but other branded cultural images, as well.

“They are going to come right here in Gordon Town,” he told the cheering crowd in reference to plans announced earlier at the function by Kingston's Mayor Delroy Williams, to improve the square to match the appeal of Miss Lou's legacy.

Holness, whose wife, Juliet, has represented Gordon Town as part of her l St Andrew East Rura constituency since February, 2016, said she was happy that Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) will be making the appropriate changes to uplift the build environment of the square.

“We support you, Mr Mayor, and we know you have the funds to do it,” Holness noted.

In his remarks, Mayor Williams confirmed that the KSAMC had committed itself to transforming the entire Gordon Town Square.

“We are going to transform it so that it aligns with the statue. We have committed ourselves to removing the asphalt from here and replacing it with that material that is aligned with the statue,” he suggested as a starter to the transformation process.

Williams recalled the prime minister had given a charge to create cultural and recreational spaces in building cities and townships across the country, which would transmit a message to future generations, and create more spaces where Jamaicans could go to learn about their history while enjoying the environment.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange announced that the area would be renamed Miss Lou Square.

Grange, whose ministry is largely responsible for staging the unveiling, paid tribute to a number of the guests for their assistance in making the event a success, including Prime Minister Holness, Juliet Holness and the KSAMC as, she said, the ministry would not have been able to stage the event without their involvement.

Another speaker at the event, Dr Juliet Daniel, professor of biology at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, said the institution, which has shown an extremely high level of interest in Miss Lou and her work, is looking forward to the completion of the project and the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Miss Lou's birth next September.

McMaster University has been partnering with the National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) in terms of the collection and promotion of Miss Lou's catalogue of books and audio-visuals, with the local library having the icon's earlier catalogue and the Canadian university controlling works catalogued since she moved to Canada in the mid-1990s.

Dr Daniel pointed out that McMaster and NLJ have been working tirelessly to maintain Miss Lou's legacy through a “mutually beneficial cooperation”.

“I would like to think that Miss Lou's digital presence, linking our two organisations and our two countries, have brought us much closer together,” she commented.

“Miss Lou is one of the great national icons of Jamaica, but she is also a world citizen. She has presented Jamaica's language and culture to a wider world, and she has established, without question, the local language as a medium for literary expression,” she stated.

She said that the importance of Miss Lou's archives stretches beyond geographical boundaries to include North America, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom, and Europe.

There was lots of entertainment, including rousing performances of songs associated with Miss Lou from Ana Strachan, as well as students of the Louise Bennett-Coverley All-Age School, and presentation by Amanda Douglas of Mona Preparatory School; Faith D'guilar, and the members of Nexxus Performing Arts Company.

Other speakers included: Councillor Neville Whittaker (Gordon Town); Joan Gordon Webley, representing Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips; former custos of St Andrew, Marigold Harding; Juliet Holness, who did an entertaining poem in Miss Lou's own style; Miss Lou's son, Fabian Coverley; and Vivienne Jackson Taylor, vice chairman of the Gordon Town Community Development Council, who moved the vote of thanks.

Also present were Custos of Kingston Steadman Fuller, who represented the governor general; ministers without portfolio in the Office of the Prime Minister Mike Henry and Karl Samuda; leader of Opposition business in the Senate, Senator Donna Scott- Mottley; and minister of state in the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Alando Terrelonge.

The event was chaired by comedian/actor Oliver Samuels.

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