Great expectations

BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter

ANTICIPATION is high among players in the entertainment industry as they await today’s announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on the reopening of the sector which has been dormant since the start of the global health crisis brought on by COVID-19.

Since March last year, events have been halted in their physical form with some major music festivals, including Reggae Sumfest, Jamaica Jazz and Blues, Rebel Salute, and Reggae Sunsplash, opting for virtual stagings.

Executive producer of Reggae Sumfest Josef Bogdanovich is confident that the prime minister will come with measures to get the industry up and running. He, however, cautions that the public has a responsibility to ensure that the opportunity given to the sector is handled with care.

“I am confident that, having recognised the importance of the entertainment industry, the prime minister will relax the protocols which will allow for a reopening for the staging of events. What I’m looking for is a kind of phased lifting of the restrictions that will allow us to slowly get things going. It is, however, important that both the players in the industry and the general public understand that this is a great opportunity that we should not mess up. Therefore, whatever measures are suggested and new protocols, we should follow them so as to avoid a spike in COVID cases,” Bogdanovich told the Jamaica Observer.

His sentiments were echoed by Scott Dunn, managing director of Dream Entertainment, organisers of the annual party series Dream Weekend.

“It has been 15 months of no events and I think the prime minister realises it’s full time now. I’m very optimistic that he will announce some kind of phased reopening of the entertainment sector. I think it might start small, allowing for small events such as round robins, fish fry and barbecues, then spread to include the larger events under special guidelines. The entertainment sector includes so many and the linkages run deep; reopening is the only solution to getting the economy up and going… I believe the prime minister has a heart,” Dunn told the Observer.

For Marlon Simms, artistic director of the National Dance Theatre Company of Jamaica (NDTC), he hopes that the pronouncement by the prime minister will be based on consultation with the sector balanced with concerns for health and wellness.

“It is a very delicate balance, public health and safety and the survival of entertainment and the arts. I hope there is a strategic plan to open up slowly on phases to accommodate any resurgence informed by science. I’m not for opening up for opening up sake, but based on all the considerations, including the level of vaccination, infection rates. It truly makes no sense to open up only to have the number of cases skyrocketing then we are back to square one,” he said.

Simms noted that even if the industry does reopen based on the prime minister’s presentation to Parliament, he is not in a position to say if the NDTC’s season of dance will shift from virtual to physical.

“With the season just three weeks away, we would have to think seriously before taking any decision. All the variables, the restrictions as it relates to audience size, whether it will be safe for the cast to rehearse and be onstage together. Let face it, dance involves physical contact. So everything has to be taken into consideration,” Simms added.

Featured Image – A section of the crowd attending a major outdoor festival. (Observer File)

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