Nash hailed as father of festivalMonday, July 26, 2021
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
FOR senior advisor in the culture and entertainment ministry, Lenford Salmon, the late Hugh Nash was the father of the modern local festival movement that we have come to know.
Nash, 90, who died on Saturday morning was chairman of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), the executive agency charged with responsibility for preserving the country's cultural heritage through the staging of the annual festival of the arts and other events surrounding the observation of Independence and Emancipation.
Salmon said that when former prime minister, the late Edward Seaga was conceptualising the Festival Song Competition 55 years ago, it was Nash he called to develop the contest.
“I had the opportunity to sit with him for hours and pick his brain about those early years as he was the closest lieutenant to Mr Seaga on matters relating to the festival of the performing and visual arts, followed by 'Babsy' Grange,” said Salmon.
“I recall him sharing with me his experience when he was summoned to meet Mr Seaga to discuss the first festival song competition. Mr Seaga had recognised the strength of the Jamaican cultural brand when he sent Byron Lee overseas. He thought a competition to harness a sense of patriotism among Jamaicans was necessary. Mr Nash said he told Mr Seaga to advise his permanent secretary that he was being transferred, to which Mr Seaga told him to start right away – just get a desk and chair in the hallway and start today,” Salmon shared with the Jamaica Observer.
Nash will also be remembered for his development of the parish cultural committees as a means to develop the festival movement from the grass roots.
“He was a strong believer that Kingston is not Jamaica and, therefore, the culture of the capital cannot be used to represent the country. This he did for the rest of his life, as up to two weeks ago we were having a meeting to discuss this. When you look at it, the schools and community groups islandwide are integral to the success of festival every year. With the exception of revival, all the other traditional folk forms have their roots outside Kingston and St Andrew. He strongly believed in building the grass roots and galvanise groups to build what we have now, which is unique in this region, Cuba comes closest and they still don't have what we have,” said Salmon.
The culture minister, in a statement following Nash's passing, noted that Jamaica has lost a great son, cultural icon and tradition-bearer, management and leadership expert.
“I am deeply saddened at the news of the passing of Hugh Nash, former executive director and chairman of the JCDC. Nicknamed Mr Festival for his work in positioning the Jamaica Festival movement and cultural development at the centre of national development, Nash was a true Jamaican patriot whose energy and commitment to nation-building knew no bounds as he gave tireless service to this the land of his birth.”
“The achievements of Hugh Nash in national cultural development were anchored in deep knowledge and appreciation for the working class people of Jamaica whom he saw as creators and guardians of our history and culture. He learnt it all by traversing the villages in his parish Manchester, talking and interacting with the people, while cultivating the management and administrative acumen that reflected his leadership of national cultural development. Mr Nash never said no to any call to serve his beloved Jamaica. He will be sorely missed. I say to his family: 'You have given to Jamaica a cultural power -house to whom our nation is grateful'.”
He was awarded the Commander of the Order of Distinction for services in the field of culture and community development, in 2009.
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