A section of the audience attending an outdoor reggae event. (Photo: Observer file)
Stakeholders upbeat about entertainment industry nod

ENTERTAINMENT stakeholders are in a festive mood following news that the restrictions placed on the industry have now been lifted.

The industry players told the Jamaica Observer they are not wasting any time and will be ready to start having events as early as this weekend, if possible.

“Globally, entertainment and events have opened up. All the major festivals are keeping and locally, with the sharp decline of COVID cases, the same thing is happening here and we're looking forward to the resumption of entertainment events this weekend as soon as the planners can plan them,”said Kamal Bankay, chairman of Dream Entertainment Limited, organisers of the Dream Weekend party series, and a director of the entertainment advisory board.

Robert Hill, CEO at Kingston & St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC), said today the entity would be meeting to discuss the way forward.

“We're actually just getting sight of it now, so we're going to be having a meeting tomorrow (Friday) morning to review the particular areas of the prime minister's presentation and adjust ourselves accordingly. We took some proprietary steps but we would not have been aware of exactly what would come out, so we've been taking some notes on that to apprise and adjust ourselves properly and properly communicate with our applicants early next week,” his told the Observer.

The KSAMC CEO said if there is no misinterpretation of what the prime minister has said, the corporation should be able to start issuing permits as early as next week.

In the meantime, Michael Ammar Jr, a director at Bacchanal Jamaica — the island's oldest Carnival band — said: “For those of us who comply with the rules, it is a welcomed announcement and yes, we are planning to have Carnival in summer,” he said.

“It's prudent to lift the Disaster Risk Management (DRMA) [Act] rules on not only the entertainment industry but everything. Jamaica is now experiencing its lowest level of COVID since the pandemic started. We have had a year for people to get vaccinated and many have done so. We've also had two waves, Delta and Omicron [strains], which have infected quite a lot of people and so they are now carrying natural immunity and I do not think that we can allow a section of the society who chooses not to get vaccinated to continue to hold the country at ransom because for two years nothing at all has happened in this entertainment industry, except illegal parties. There are some of us that can't have those parties because we're very visible,” he continued.

Similarly, Bankay noted: “The Government is doing exactly what they know needs to be done, based on the current climate for COVID globally and especially in Jamaica. We have been planning for our Dream Weekend in summer and I know Sumfest has announced. We've been planning, we've been selling tickets, we've announced it, we've done everything and everything is set to go. The only thing left now is to do the formal process for the application of permits and we're off to the races. We still have a pandemic going on globally, so if you lift everything else and you keep the 70 per cent capacity limit it's a fair balance.”

In terms of production, CEO at Main Event Entertainment Group, Solomon Sharpe disclosed, “We've been patient, we've kept the business and most of the team together. The team and our shareholders welcome the return to entertainment life as we know it in Jamaica.”

On the theatre production side, actor, director and playwright David Tulloch said: “I think it's a very good time for the theatrical community to get themselves in order and start planning for the rest of the year because it's been a while. It's been two years that we've literally been without work that we're accustomed to. A lot of us had to take our hands and make fashion as we would say here in Jamaica.”

“Theatre, in general, requires an audience and the more the merrier for us so the fact that we could not have an audience because of what the DRMA stood for we were literally out of work. For me, I turned to radio and others have gone on to film. It really hit us because we were not able to occupy spaces to have an event. I think a lot of the practitioners are still here; some have gone away for sure but the problem now is that theatre is seen as alternate entertainment and not mainstream entertainment, and based on that, it took a while of continuous production to make sure that people have an idea that plays are being kept at least on the weekends. What's gonna happen now is that we're going to have to get back into a system where we are continuously putting out productions so patrons can build back up their confidence in attending plays,” Tulloch continued.

In the meantime, marketing manager and director of Palace Amusement Melanie Graham said, “I'm happy that we're moving in the right direction and hopefully it will mean good things for us. It's been a long time so we're really looking forward to this. It does allow us to have our regular times now, which will make a difference and we're coming up to the summer, so I'm hoping for exciting things. People need to be assured and feel safe coming into a closed environment and I'm not sure how long that will take. I know that there are some people that have been dying to get out, but there are a lot of people that are still nervous. And then, on the other hand, our business is picture-driven and we are just beginning to see an upturn with the type of movies that are very favourable for us out here. The slate going forward into the summer is looking good, but a lot of it is out of our hands and we just pray that there won't be any more hitches in this very long and arduous road.”

David Tulloch
Michael Ammar Jr
Robert Hill
Main Event's co-owner and CEOSolomon Sharpe
Kamal Bankay
Melanie Graham
BY ANDREW LAIDLEY Senior business reporter laidleya@jamaicaobserver.com

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