Jamaica’s usual grand celebrations will take a low-key turn this year, as the island plans to deliver virtual celebrations, amid COVID-19.
Annually, over the past 57 years the period between the last weeks of July and the first half of August, highlighted on Independence Day August 6, has been a period of impressive celebration in Jamaica as the nation celebrates its independence from Britain with a variety of events known as the Jamaica Festival.
However, this year, as with the case of most entertainment events in Jamaica and across the Caribbean region, the COVID-19 pandemic will negatively impact this year’s Festival. According to Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange who has the portfolio responsibility for culture and entertainment this year’s celebration will be reduced to mostly a virtual event.
Participating in a debate in the Jamaican Parliament last week, Minister Grange said previous plans was for her ministry to broaden, rebrand and refocus Jamaica Festival as a summer of cultural and entertainment activities. However, the pandemic has caused frustrated these plans. She, however, stated that despite the challenges the Government is moving ahead with some of the activities, including the popular Jamaica Festival Song Competition virtually.
According to a report in the Jamaica Observer, the minister said, “The National Independence Church Service will be held on August 2 and that, too, will be virtual. It will be carried on broadcast media and online. We will also celebrate our Emancipation in a very special virtual ceremony on July 31, when we recognize our Emancipation. And we will have the ‘Independence Spectacular’ as a virtual edition of the Grand Gala on August 6.”
The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Resilient and Strong…Let’s Celebrate Jamaica 58’.
The annual independence celebrations have also traditionally attracted Jamaicans residing in the diaspora to return home and participate. Despite the challenges of Jamaicans traveling home with COVID-19 restrictions imposed in Jamaica, Minister Grange took the opportunity to invite Jamaicans, at home and abroad, to celebrate the spirit of Independence.
“The ‘Spirit of Independence’ competition is a special focus for us this year, as it is an excellent way to get Jamaicans involved in our celebrations event amidst the pandemic. We are encouraging municipal corporations, business places, government offices and private residences, here and in the Diaspora, to demonstrate the spirit of independence by decorating their surroundings in the national colors in elaborate and eye-catching designs. We want you to feel the spirit,” she reportedly told parliament.
The minister also announced prizes will be awarded to local Jamaicans and the diaspora in the categories: Best Decorated Town Centre, Best Decorated Business Place, Best Decorated Government Office, Best Decorated Private Residence, and Best Diaspora Community Celebration.
She added that there is a special category for Best Media Celebration, for media houses which display the spirit of Independence not only visually, but through their content.