A Public Conversation on the Concept of The Entertainment Zones for the benefit of the current Government.
Political commitment to the entertainment industry requires a mindset that entertainment is not only a legitimate business but also an industry that Jamaica will depend on for micro if not macro economic viability. Political and thus governmental commitment to the Entertainment Industry can only evolve from the understanding that the factory that hired one hundred people (100) in the 1980’s is now hiring ten (10) people because of mechanization and automation. Simply put, in the field of manufacturing, construction and even farming, machines have replaced human beings.
The above mentioned reality therefore demands an acceptance that adults can only survive independently if they have access to income which can only come in one of two forms, namely profit or wages. Since the opportunities for earning from wages are being dramatically reduced by machines, taking away humans employment opportunities then more persons who were once in the working class(surviving from wages) now have to strive to be in the capital class (surviving from profits).
However, because of lack of access to capital these individuals must seek to participate in non-traditional industries that has much less barriers to entry. Over the last thirty (30) years we have seen the movement of more and more persons without high access to capital becoming entrepreneurs in taxis, vending (to include ICI), retail (to include corner shops) and entertainment (to include performing artist and promoters).
One must also note that in the last decade these “industries for the poor” have come under extreme governmental and market driven pressure. Chinese wholesales are pressuring if not eradicating corner shops, government policy is consistently increasing the burden on taxi operators both from the point of entering the industry and the point of remaining in the industry, vendors are always on the run from the authorities and entertainment has been pressured by the Noise Abatement Act as well as wanton refusal of permits as a part of “crime fighting”.
In short all of the above can be captured in one statement which argues that in an effort to survive legally most persons without a lot of resources will either have to either sell something (vending, retail, transport service) or keep something (entertainment).
To this extent government policy must be developed to support these industries for the poor, no less than there has been government policy to support other industries such as tourism, mining, manufacturing etc. Further, these industries should be supported in spite of their nuisance though steps must be taken to mitigate the nuisance. Mining comes with a dust and noise nuisance, tourism comes with its own nuisances, farming with its own nuisances yet none of these industries have been injured by Government policy for its nuisance as has vending and entertainment been attacked and curtailed because of their nuisances.
As I have repeated, on many occasions, I have no doubt that current Minister of Culture, Hon Babsy Grange, understands the potential and importance of entertainment. I also think more than most other practitioners in Government currently or before Minister Grange has the will to encourage entertainment as a legitimate industry for the poor. This is so as Minister grange has seen first hand how entertainment can transform the economic realities of individuals with relatively low investments.
I am however concerned about the piecemeal way in which the Entertainment Zone was re-announced by the Ministry of Culture and will explain my concerns below
The enforcement and some would argue the implementation of the Noise Abatement Act is one of our greatest examples of social prejudice. It applies, in the main, only to small events as I have never seen it applied to Sumfest, Sting, Carnival, Jazz and Blues or any other large event with connected promoters. Then we scoff at the statement that in this country there is one law for the rich and another for the poor.
The entertainment zone cannot be efficiently implemented without a change being made to the Noise Abatement Act which currently does not facilitate special consideration for location. This is seen, especially outside of Kingston and St. Andrew, where events are being moved to areas which are out of earshot in places which are inhabited by only ‘peenie wallies’. Yet these events outside of earshot are being affected because the law as is universal.
The Noise Abatement Act is under the Ministry of Security, however general agreement was reached with the Ministry and the changes were being made to the act in 2015 at that time it was to be sent for drafting. Improvement to the Noise Abatement Act must be focused on the term nuisance which requires both reach and disagreement. Reach meaning the ability to affect and disagreement meaning that those who are reached are bothered by it.
It be noted that there are communities that depend on events for economic gain and therefore are in agreement with them being held thus it isn’t a nuisance. However the law being universal does not consider these communities such as Ray Town that depend on these events for which the majority of residents are in agreement.
Town and Country Planning Act
For the Zones to work effectively there must be changes to the way in which events are approved through the parish councils. This change must be done to allow for promoters to apply for extension when applying for the permits. The law then will have to be changed to have events being applied for no less than two (2) weeks before the event and to indicate upon application that they are interested to be considered for an extension under one of 4 categories namely
- Category 1: Zone A which is twenty four (24) hours and the extension permit is automatic for venues in that Zone. Palisadoes stretch was identified as one such Zone A
- Category 2: Zone B which is in commercial areas such as HWT, Downtown, Cross Roads. These were, in particular, the parking lots in these commercial areas. In this zone extension permit is automatic to 4am. Downtown was identified as one such zone and 9 parking lots were sound tested to ensure limited impact on surrounding communities. 6 parking lots were approved and that information was left at the ministry
- Category 3: Zone C which are community zones such as a community centre. For a community zone at least 60% of residents must sign to the space being a community zone as well as the days for which it is a zone. Therefore Deans Valley community may say the community centre is a zone on Fridays and Saturdays up to 4am. To the contrary Mona may say the play ground is a zone on public holidays up to 4am. While still another community may say the basketball court is a zone during summer months up until 4am. Extension permits comes through application to the extension committee in the parish councils and disagreement can be noted and considered from residents event by event
- Category 4: Zone D which is a temporary zone for a particular venue on a particular night. extension permits for zone D can only be gotten by appearing before the extension committee. Application for zone D is published in the newspaper 2 weeks before to facilitate residents communication of resistance to extension
The parish council extension committee make would be as follows
- Custos of the parish as chairman
- Mayor or Mayors rep
- Parish Development Committee rep
- Entertainment practitioners rep
- Ministry of Culture Rep
All of this was done and even the new application form was drafted and agreed to for the parish councils to use.
Fort Rocky was identified as the 1st venue in the Palisadoes entertainment Zone. One venue cannot be a zone simple demand and supply would make that venue unaffordable as promoters compete every night for the single venue. Fort Rocky was to be the Government investment to entice other private investors to build venues such as the old coal wharf, go cart track and other areas along the Palisadoes. The strip, however, would also need government investment in the following
- Ranger service for the policing of the environment
- A parking lot as the zone users will be convinced to park and shuttle
- A Detox area … remember events include alcohol and the zones are by design far away from homes and in likely unfamiliar spaces
I envisioned designing fort rocky as a break out venue that could be for one large event or for a 3000 person event simultaneously by screwing in fence post and running temporary fencing. However Fort Rocky would have to be followed almost immediately with a call for private proposals for venues in the zone. If this isn’t done the zone will be an effort in futility.
All of this was done and the information exist in the ministry
If promoters are not registered then all the above is for naught. Why would I go to a zone if I can extend my own event without repercussions? Only a registered promoter should be allowed to apply to keep an event. If the rules are breached continuously then the promoter can lose his license and therefore can’t get a permit to promote events after losing the licence. How this would be done, how complaints can be made, how the promoter can defend himself have all been outlined and left at the Ministry.
In closing, I am happy to see the continuation of our efforts to establish an entertainment zone but I fear that it will fail if implemented in a piecemeal way. As well the zone is not the objective the zone is one of the strategy to facilitate entertainment as a legitimate industry while reducing the possible nuisance that comes with producing events.