For all his fame and fortune, Bob Marley never forgot Trench Town — an expanse of tenements when he first arrived there from St Ann as a boy in the mid-1950s. His spirit still hovers in the community, 42 years after his death.
A film crew from Paramount Pictures assembled in Trench Town in mid-March to shoot scenes for its Marley biopic which is scheduled for release in 2024.
British actor Kingsley Ben-Adir, who plays Marley, was in the area along with Ziggy, Stephen and Cedella, three of the reggae legend's children.
Also watching proceedings was Hugh English, a roots singer and entrepreneur who was born and raised in Trench Town. He is grateful for the three-day 'visit' which benefited over 100 residents.
"A lotta people inna di community play a role inna it; get dem stipend. Di shop people dem weh deh inna di vicinity of di movie lock dem shop an' get a stipend fi dat. A whole heap a food run inna di community 'cause a di movie," English told the Jamaica Observer.
He said scenes were filmed at the Trench Town Culture Yard, a renovated tenement where Marley and his family once lived.
Production on the yet-titled movie, directed by American Reinaldo Marcus Green, began in London in late 2021. It covers a turbulent, yet fruitful period in Marley's life, starting with the assassination attempt on his life in December 1976 to his 18-month stay in the United Kingdom , where he recorded the epic Exodus album; and a triumphant return to Jamaica in 1978 for the One Love Peace Concert at the National Stadium.
Scenes for that historic event, which saw Manley bringing Prime Minister Michael Manley and Opposition Leader Edward Seaga together on stage in a show of unity, were filmed at National Heroes Park.
English's father, community activist Rupert English, knew Marley well. English remembers travelling with him to the singer's 56 Hope Road home to discuss matters aimed at improving Trench Town, which was one of the most violent areas during the politically divisive 1970s.
While there has been improvements in terms of infrastructure, Trench Town is still prone to gang violence, and unemployment among youth is high.
Although poverty was rife throughout Trench Town when he lived there, Marley saw a sense of community that inspired songs like No Woman No Cry, Concrete Jungle and Trench Town.
Hugh English, whose songs include a cover of The Beatles' Hey Jude and Guns in The Hands of Fools, says the visit of high-profile celebrities such as Jay Z and Beyonce, Britain's Prince William and Kate Middleton, means better days are possible for his hometown.
"A jus' di youth dem now fi live clean, yuh nuh. Di community a see tings pon a different level ya now, so nuff people a guh get push out 'cause di people dem tired a di foolishness," he said.
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