Striking a balance: Police-entertainment sector unity for cultural harmony and rural development
As an advocate dedicated to advancing rural development and representing a rural constituency, the recent unfolding of events at Unruly Fest has prompted profound contemplation regarding the trajectory of rural development initiatives and their attainability.
This occurrence hasn’t solely captured my attention; it has also garnered notice from other rural party promoters and event organisers within south St James. Their recurrent grievances regarding premature and stringent restrictions imposed on events have struck a chord. In response to these observations and experiences, I find it imperative to offer my perspective.
Using the Unruly Fest as a poignant case study, let’s look at the rural entertainment product and the consequential implications for the overarching rural development endeavour.
The recent unfolding of events at Unruly Fest in St Thomas has brought to the forefront an issue demanding immediate attention: the disconnect between law enforcement and the entertainment sector. The abrupt halt of an electrifying staging of Unruly Fest on December 22 caused frustration among attendees and artistes alike, highlighting a further deepening of the divide between the would-be protectors and those to be served and protected.
It is essential to acknowledge the significance of Unruly Fest, a platform curated by Andre “Popcaan” Sutherland. The festival transcends its entertainment value; it’s designed to bring upliftment and the gaze of future investors and developers to St Thomas, termed the ‘forgotten’ parish. Through Unruly Fest, Sutherland is showcasing St Thomas’s potential:
* attracting local and international visitors — bringing much-needed revenue to stimulate the economics of the parish;
* generating employment — it creates earning opportunities for local vendors, shopkeepers, villas, security companies, event clean-up crews; and
* positioning the parish as a prime destination for future events — Unruly Fest proves that St Thomas can produce a world-class festival, with world-class stage designs, venue management and superstars from around the world, along with untold spin off opportunities.
However, the premature conclusion of the event unearthed a clash of visions for a parish poised for greatness.
For the development visions to align, it’s imperative that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) undergoes a transformative shift, transitioning from historically perceived oppressors to guardians dedicated to service to the people. Cultivating a positive relationship between citizens and law enforcement holds particular significance, especially in a parish like St Thomas, which was integral in the origins of the JCF, sparked by Paul Bogle’s revolution. This shift will signify a move towards harmony and service, steering away from historical associations tied to defending privilege and excessive force.
The recent incident sheds light on the unequal treatment of event organisers based on social and political affiliations. It exposes a stark contrast in regulatory leniency, with events linked to influential circles enjoying exemptions, while grassroots initiatives like Unruly Fest contend with stringent regulations and premature closures.
While acknowledging the necessity of adhering to laws, it’s equally essential to exercise balanced discretion, especially with late-night events in remote areas, causing minimal disturbance. A strict enforcement approach, devoid of local and cultural considerations, risks impeding the growth of our dynamic entertainment culture.
Artistes and entertainers hold significant sway over the younger population and play a pivotal role in shaping societal perceptions. Establishing a cohesive relationship between law enforcement and the entertainment industry is not merely a matter of convenience but an essential step towards cultural harmony.
It’s time to bridge the gap between the police force and entertainers. The friction between these two entities is detrimental to our cultural progression and sends conflicting messages to our youth. A unified front, where mutual respect and understanding prevail, will pave the way for a harmonious coexistence.
Nekeisha Burchell is the People’s National Party’s candidate for St James Southern in the next general election.