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Kingston Designated UNESCO City of Music

The view of Kingston from the inaugural Blue Mountain Music Fesitval

Many a reggae singer and dancehall deejay have long touted that reggae rhythms put Jamaica on the map. This has taken a more literal turn as the island, or rather Kingston, has now been placed on the map of UNESCO’s Creative Cities. Kingston joined 46 other cities from 33 countries around the world as newly designated Creative Cities.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network has seven fields: crafts and folk art, design, film, gastronomy, literature, media arts and music. Kingston is the first country in the Caribbean to receive the designation for music, and it joins Jacmel in Haiti and Nassau in the Bahamas as Caribbean cities in the network. Both Jacmel and Nassau are designated as cities of craft and folk art.

Senior Director of Entertainment, Gillian Wilkinson McDaniel remarked that this is simultaneously an important achievement and opportunity.

“The opportunities are endless,” Wilkison McDaniel said. “We now have a framework through which we can collaborate with other cities in the network.”

She remarked that this potential for collaboration can be particularly useful to the potential growth of entities such as the Alpha Boys Academy and the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

“It’s also important from a tourism standpoint,” Wilkinson McDaniel remarked. “There are many tourists who are interested in UNESCO designated sites. She pointed out that the creative city designation is, therefore, complementary to the Blue and John Crow Mountains designation as a Heritage site. 

Wilkison McDaniel was also careful to point out that this is just one step in the process that the city has a lot of work to do in order to retain as well as maximize the designation .

“We need to do more about documenting, showcasing and collaborating the elements that are critical to the creative industries,” Wilkinson McDaniel said, going on to explain that a work plan had to be presented as a part of gaining the designation. She also remarked that while the Ministry is committed to supporting and exploiting the designation, the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation, as the entity with responsibility for the management of the city, is the lead.

So, should the city live up to its commitments, the music would be used as a key driver of sustainable development and projects that have been languishing in a sea of neglect might finally get the attention they require. 

Among these projects is the development of a fulsome Music Museum, the creation of a multi-use performance space and the redevelopment of the grand powder blue Lady of downtown, the Ward Theatre.