Three decades of Ghetto Splash

Three decades of Ghetto Splash

By Kevin Jackson
Observer writer

Friday, December 06, 2019

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Sharene McKenzie, former president of the Craig Town Youth Organisation, remembers vividly the first Ghetto Splash 30 years ago. The event shone a positive light on the community and was a commercial boon for small business people.

“We had some excellent performances that night. Papa San, Stitchie, Beres Hammond and Maxi Priest had the crowd singing along to their songs. The highlight for me was Little Kirk (Kirk Davis) who delivered a memorable performance of Oh Donna,” McKenzie recalled.

She added, “We had roughly 10,000 people inside the square. People from the community came out to support the event as well as persons from neighbouring communities.”

First held on December 17, 1989, Ghetto Splash drew a massive audience to the Craig Town square, which was its home for the next six years.

McKenzie shared how the event came about.

“I was the president of the Craig Town Youth Organisation and our foundation would often put on events to help with community development. Shocking Vibes Productions was located at Pouyatt Street and a few of us, including Patrick Roberts, were contemplating what we needed to do in an equitable way to assist the community since Christmas was coming up. We brainstormed and decided to do a Christmas treat and a concert. We wanted something that would have the appeal of a festival,” McKenzie said.

She continued: “We decided on the name Splash but it was my sister Donna who said to call it Ghetto Splash because it was a show for the inner-city residents.”

Promoted by Shocking Vibes Productions, the first Ghetto Splash was planned over a two-week period on a shoestring budget of $1,500.

“We used a town crier to get the word out as we didn't have the funds to do any form of advertising. We got the stage as a contribution from the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation. The MP at the time, Bobby Jones (Member of Parliament for South St Andrew), donated $1,500 to fix the clubhouse but we decided to put it towards the event. It was used to pay for sound and lighting,” McKenzie related.

She said the entire community earned from Ghetto Splash.

“All the shopkeepers, the bars and vendors in the community benefited. People were allowed to come out and sell because we saw it as our way of giving back to the community,” said McKenzie. “It was an out of body experience to see how it all went down that night. Very satisfying.”

Success eventually forced promoters to move out of Craig Town.

“It outgrew the space. However, in our sixth year there was an incident, where a few patrons were robbed. So, for two years we suspended it. We made a return in 1996 and used the event as a peace mechanism in the city to cool tensions. We went to the National Heroes' Park in 1996 and we had close to 50,000 persons in the park.”

Ghetto Splash would take another break and return in 2010 at its current location, the Waterhouse Mini Stadium. The 30th anniversary show is scheduled for Tuesday, December 17, and is a joint effort between Downsound Entertainment and Shocking Vibes Productions.

Among those scheduled to perform are Daddy1, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Popcaan, Tarrus Riley, Jahvillani, and Junior Reid.

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