Jamaica Gleaner / As he speaks about the fourth annual Heritage Fest, which takes place this Friday in Kingston, centred around the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) on East Street, the organisation’s executive director, Vivian Crawford, says “it is just memory, memory, memory, memory”.
This was after going through some figures – Kingston is marking 325 years as a parish and it has been 110 years since the earthquake and fire of 1907 destroyed much of the city. But, Crawford said, the event is specifically marking the 145th anniversary of Kingston as Jamaica’s capital.
On its website, www.jis.com , the Jamaica Information Service says, “Kingston was founded a July 22, 1692, on Colonel Barry’s Hog Crawle as a refuge for survivors of the earthquake on June 7, which had destroyed two-thirds of Port Royal. The new town was bounded on the south by Harbour Street while East, West and North streets defined the remainder of Kingston.”
Attempts by the governor of Jamaica, Admiral Charles Knowles, to move the country’s capital from Spanish Town to Kingston in the mid-18th century failed. But over a century later, in 1865, “Governor Sir John Peter Grant was mandated to move the island’s capital, in the aftermath of the Morant Bay Rebellion of 1865.
Kingston became Jamaica’s capital in 1872, the JIS website saying “… the population of Kingston grew to such an extent that it spilled over in the north into St Andrew.”
Although the central point of Friday’s celebration is the IOJ’s East Street headquarters, it will have an impact in much of Kingston, commonly referred to as ‘downtown’. There is a request for a one-hour roadblock to have a parade – craft, pastry, natural juices and more will be on display and sale – with Richie Stephens, Ozo’une and Pon Fyah Band and Blue Glaze Mento Band performing.
Crawford said bus tours will be done from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., “all across the city. I always like to highlight the place where Mary Seacole was born.” The Ward Theatre, Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation and Simon Bolivar Cultural Centre are among the places students attending Heritage Fest will visit.
And Crawford puts special emphasis on the “bottom of King Street, where enslaved Africans entered Jamaica”. Quoting Colin Channer, author of Waiting in Vain and Passing Through , among other books, Crawford said “our ancestors did not come through immigration. They came through Customs, because they were regarded as goods.”
The National Gallery, African-Caribbean Institute of Jamaica and Natural History Museum of Jamaica are among the institutions which will be available for visiting, while the Music Museum will be hosting a display from vinyl to MP3.
Fun and games are a part of the day, Crawford saying face-painting and a bounceabout will be there for the children.
“We just want people to know there is excitement downtown, real cultural excitement,” Crawford said, thanking the business community, especially the IOJ’s immediate neighbours Myers, Fletcher and Gordon, for its support and accommodation.
“It is so successful that we want to continue it, especially for the children who come from all over,” Crawford said.