Despite being advertised for more than a week, very few entertainers were in attendance at the Entertainment Consultation Programme, which was hosted by the Ministry of Tourism and Sport at the Jamaica Conference Centre on Saturday October 20.

The conference-like seminar attracted quite a number of professionals and amateurs drawn from the theatre and performing arts, music and film industries.

Its purpose was to get a consensus from the entertainment fraternity, on the policy (the proposed Entertainment Sector Policy) that was recently established by the Entertainment Unit within the Ministry of Tourism and Sport.

In her address, Hon. Portia Simpson-Miller, M.P. Minister of Tourism and Sport with special responsibility for Entertainment and Women’s Affairs, said, “If the entertainment industry gets its act together and with the financial resources, it will overtake tourism as the country’s largest earner of foreign exchange.” The Minister further added, “This Entertainment Board that has been established, will ensure that entertainment derives maximum benefits. The goal is to build a united and an effective industry. Action has already been taken for entertainers to be able to bring instruments into the island without problems. Entertainment can help to stop the violence in a number of ways. The voices of the entertainers need to be heard. During their recent crisis, the US reached out for music.”

The Entertainment Advisory Board was appointed by the Minister to guide policy matters. It will work in conjunction with the Ministry to promote awareness and appreciation, locally and internationally, for the diversity, quality and value of the Jamaican entertainment product among other key areas.

The members of the Entertainment Board include Kingsley Cooper (Chairman), Brian St. Juste (who is also the head of the sub committee on Film); Justine Henzell (who heads up the Arts & Affiliates sub committee); Ibo Cooper (Music sub committee head), Rita Marley, Chris Blackwell, Sandra Alcott, Carole Guntley-Brady, Desmond Young, Lloyd Stanbury, Tony Laing, Augustus “Gussie” Clarke, Natalie Thompson and promoter Johnny Gourzong.

After an audio presentation, there were individual presentations by Ibo Cooper, Mr. St. Juste and Miss Henzell, who gave overviews of their respective area sub committees.

An action plan outlined what will be adhered to during the first year:

  • Public education and outreach programmes
  • Enhanced education and training curriculum
  • Legislation and Regulatory Infrastructure
  • Institutional Strengthening
  • Funding
  • Ongoing market research
  • Upgrading facilities
  • Archiving

After the presentations were made, the floor was open for a question and answer segment. What followed were various questions from concerned individuals within the industry.

Jacquie Gareave who works in the film sector expressed to the panel her concerns which included the stagnation in upward mobility of personnel working in the local film sector. She also pointed out that foreigners were most times drafted in to work on local productions when local professionals were just as qualified to fill that void. The panel took her point for review and discussion.

Trevor Rhone asked about funding for local film and theatre productions and proposed that the government utilized funds from cable television operators to go towards developing local culture.

Roger Grant from Organic Records asked the board to make strong representation regarding the setting up of Soundscan system locally to accurately track record sales, which is synonymous with most developed countries. He also suggested that the industry players looked at the possibility of arriving at various certifications for record sales for gold and platinum certifications.

Overall many persons felt the seminar was a good move on the part of the Ministry. Jerome Hamilton of Headline Entertainment said, “I think it was ok; a lot came out of it. Now let’s see what happens.”

Nioka Lee, a budding singer, said, “I came just to see what this is all about and to see what the government is going to do for an upcoming singer like myself, who is having it difficult to even nurture my talent.” She said she would try to meet with members of the Music sub committee from the Entertainment Board for further information on how she could get a head start.

Flexx, an upcoming deejay, was adamant that the government needed to do more for persons like him. “From what mi see here today at this thing, it look like for once the government ago do something fi we. Man woulda rather do a deejay thing than tek up badness, you si mi big man?”

A concerned member of the audience with whom this writer spoke after the seminar had ended, said, “I thought that the deejays who always complained that the government wasn’t doing anything for the entertainment industry would have been here. Not one of them I see. It is so bad. Don’t they think that something of this nature would benefit them?”

Among those who were seen in attendance at the function were Carlette Deleon and Clyde McKenzie of Shocking Vibes Productions, singer Jack Radics (who drove all the way from Negril to come to the seminar), Shocking Vibes recording artiste Patchy, playwright and actor Aston Cooke, promoter and publicist Christine Hewitt, actor Charles Hyatt, radio personalities Simone Clarke and Paula Ann Porter, journalist Barbara Blake-Hannah, PRO for the Sound System Association of Jamaica Louise Frazer-Bennett, singer Jana Bent, musician Rupert Bent, and dub poet Jonah.