The Independence Grand Gala, which will be the showpiece of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, promises to be a spectacular affair.
Acting Executive Director of the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), Delroy Gordon, says that the three and a half-hour long show to be held at the National Arena, will be full of surprises and many “wow” moments.
The grand gala, over the years, has been the most highly anticipated event on the Independence calendar, featuring some of the very best performances of popular Jamaican culture and traditional folk-form. This year the excitement quotient will be stepped up significantly for what Mr. Gordon tells JIS News will be “the mother of all Grand Galas.”
“In terms of this year being Jamaica’s 50th one can understand and appreciate that all stops are pulled to ensure that we have a gala befitting the Golden Jubilee,”
Mr. Gordon says. Dubbed: ‘Tributes In Gold’, the gala will highlight the significant achievements of the nation over the past 50 years, which will serve an inspiration to a ‘Nation On A Mission’.
It will feature all the pomp and pageantry of past galas and some new surprises. While Mr. Gordon is keeping much of the details close to his chest, preferring to let patrons see them unfurl come August 6, he reveals that over 2,000 performers have been recruited from schools and communities, who are in rehearsals for the special day when they will bring the event to life.
The event will be presented in three acts – ‘Eternal Father Bless Our Land;’ Natural Mystic; and Tomorrow’s People,’ and will feature dancing, choral and orchestral music, popular entertainers, giant screen video projections, colourful costumes, audience participation, and scintillating pyrotechnic and fireworks displays.
Jambiz International, which has been producing the grand gala since 2008 and has received much praise for the quality of those events, was awarded a $70 million contract to produce this year’s show.
Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Youth and Culture, Sydney Bartley, describes the grand gala as the highpoint of the Independence celebrations over the years. “It provides an opportunity for people to express their patriotism, commitment and enthusiasm. When you look into the crowd and see the people’s faces there is such pride in their eyes. There is a glow”.
Mr. Bartley states that the event is also important to the promotion of national unity. “It brings out togetherness among the people and it is wonderful to see everybody shouting, cheering, singing, dancing and it feels good.”
While the gala is free to the public, patrons will be required to have tickets to get inside the National Stadium to see the event live. Jamaicans at home and abroad are keeping their fingers crossed, that they will be among those inside the 35,000-capacity venue on August 6.
Hyacinth Johnson is one such person. In the past, she has been with her two children to the gala and found it to be very exciting. “I liked the fireworks and I am looking to even more excitement this year,” she says.
Antoinette Beckford, on the other hand, has never been to a grand gala but has watched it on television in the past and is hoping to see it live this year. “It is always very exciting. I love to see the costumes and the groups and this year I want to see it live.”
Mr. Gordon tells JIS News that the ticket outlets will be publicised a week or two before the gala. He says that in order to compensate for those who will not be able to make it inside the National Stadium “we are going to be linking all 14 parishes with what is happening in Kingston, which is going to be a part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations, and Grand Gala is going to be a part of that”.
“Persons in rural parishes will be able to view what is happening via big screens that are going to be established in town squares and at various points of interest across the island and of course, it is going to be beamed across the Diaspora,” Mr. Gordon explains.
“We know people will want to actually be in the stadium but the capacity is so much and no more so we are seeking to compensate for that. We are also going to have the (Golden Jubilee) Village operating outside the National Stadium. There will be big screens in there as well catering to the overflow,” Mr. Gordon promises.
The JCDC boss explains that special arrangements are being made for persons to park their vehicles at designated areas and a shuttle service will be in effect to transport them to the National Stadium. Private security will also be in place to complement that provided by the JCF to secure persons and property.
Mr. Gordon also explains that whilst the parishes outside of Kingston and St. Andrew will not be able to stage an event of the magnitude of the grand gala, on Independence Day, or night, each parish will be having its own gala celebrations.
“All parishes are being supported financially and with other resources, in order to ensure that each parish feels equally a part of what is happening and that the celebrations are not just centralised in Kingston, but that they are dispersed throughout the island,” he says.
In St. James for instance, there will be the Western Jamaica Independence Celebrations. This will be held in Montego Bay and will feature dances, parades of uniformed groups, marching bands and a major concert. This event last year attracted over 20,000 patrons and is expected to be bigger this year.
By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter