By Jeniel Lamb
Jamaican culture, since the birth of Reggae, has had very close ties with the entertainment industry and the entertainment industry is one from which many locals have made their name, status and fortune.
COVID-19 has, however, shown Jamaicans that the heart of our culture – our night life – is easily taken away, once there are threats to our collective health. This has been seen in the shutdown of major events which previously brought in tourists, returning residents and consequently, massive amounts of revenue. Events such as Reggae Sumfest, Carnival, Dream Weekend and Sting are left by the wayside in an effort to protect people from contracting the virus.
This means that major events – the usual pillars of our entertainment industry – have not been able to bring in the usual amount of tourism revenue. This is detrimental for persons who rely on this revenue. These are events which many persons use to make a life for themselves and which fund the livelihoods of many persons. From the artistes who perform, to the production teams, and even security personnel who would ordinarily be needed, many are now out of jobs because of the lock down – that is, of this major industry.
This is not a conversation that many have, since it is seen as relating mainly to persons who directly earn income from the entertainment sector. However, if a country is known for farming and they become unable to do any harvesting, their whole economy and population will suffer. This is exactly what is happening with Jamaica and it’s entertainment sector. These events, whether big or small, fund the livelihood of many Jamaicans.
There is also the issue of many individuals staging their own small ‘get-togethers’ such as drink-ups, cook outs, dances and widely known “roun-robins”, which are losing immensely as well. These small events are what many local Jamaicans use to earn income and fund their daily activities. This pandemic has left them ‘grasping at straws’.
There are also small business sectors that we tend to forget are linked closely to the entertainment industry, such as vending and clothing retail which thrives off sales from trendy and up-to-date fashion items for these events. They are also losing money because people have no reason to want to buy clothes before a major event (since there are none). Vendors are also forced to close their stalls and/or jerk pans.
In the same breath it can be said that many of these people are still earning based on either investments they would have made before or by disregarding the laws that have been set, and still hosting events. However, such persons are in the minority. It can be said that they are not the only ones who are suffering through this pandemic and while this is true, many tend to forget that our country runs on the backs of the numerous dances and ‘Sting’s of the past.
Our economy relies on being the place of fun and entertainment. If there is no fun, we are forced to face reality.
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