Massive turnout for Jamaica in the Square
by Poppy Brady
THE HEART of Birmingham was transformed as up to 30,000 people helped Jamaica to celebrate its 55th anniversary of independence from British colonial rule on August 6.
The city’s famous ‘Floozie in the Jacuzzi’ statue was barely visible among the crowds, but she looked more laid back than usual – as if she too was enjoying the vibe of Jamaica 55 at Jamaica in the Square II.
At Sunday’s flag-raising ceremony, the disappointment of Bolt’s 100m defeat to Gatlin the night before seemed to have dispersed on the breeze like the cooking smoke from scores of barbecues dotted around Victoria Square.
HOLD ‘EM HIGH: The Jamaican flag was raised during the ceremony on August 6 in Birmingham (image credit: Tony Brady)
When the flag of Jamaica was hoisted aloft by Royal Navy officers during a ceremony full of pomp and praise, it was clear this was a party in full swing with a final free open air concert to look forward to.
Organiser Dean Alexander was close to tears with relief and pride that the three-day festival, which began on Friday, had been as successful as Jamaica in the Square I in 2012 when Birmingham hosted the Jamaica track and field team in the fortnight before London 2012.
COME RAIN OR SHINE: Revellers were out in full force to celebrate Jamaica’s55th independence on August 6 (image credit: Tony Brady)
As Bishop Dr. Derek Webley said in his ceremonial message:“Birmingham is the greatest city to be in today. The people of Birmingham know howto party – let us celebrate 55 blessed years of Jamaica and give thanks for the land we love.”
The two-hour ceremony, sponsored by Victoria Mutual, the Royal Navy, Diamond Travel, and the Association of Jamaican Nationals (Birmingham) UK, was the grand finale to a three-day family festival highlighting Jamaica’s 55th anniversary, which had the theme this year of celebrating Jamaicans both at home and abroad.
Councillor Sybil Spence, who became Birmingham’s first black Lord Mayor in 1997 told the crowd it was ‘so good’ to be reminded of Jamaica’s independence, as it was an event no-one should forget.
PROUD: Shakera Green, left, with Pauline Wedderburn, came out to enjoy the day (image credit: Tony Brady)
Reverend Jonathan Jackson added:
“Jamaica has so much richness not only in the ground, but in its people. The people are out saints, our champions, our heroes – we need to remember their greatness.
“The next generation need to know where they came from so they can chart their own way to their destiny – out of many one people.”
Youngsters from the 30th Birmingham Boys’ Brigade and Girls Association recited the National Pledge and there was entertainment from Patricia Panton, Miss P, Brothers United in Christ, Jam Folk and Saxophonist Millicent Stephenson.
Date: 27TH June 2017
for immediate release
Congratulations to Zeena Banks who was crowned winner of the Jamaica 55 Song 4 Jamaica 2017 on Sunday at the show-stopping finals in London.
The Song 4 Jamaica competition began with regional heats earlier in the year with the goal of uncovering fresh singing talent and ended with a grand finale, held at The Tabernacle in West London. The event is a symbol of the mission to promote the roots of Jamaicans abroad and connect the diaspora for cultural and business purposes. Hosted in previous years by UKUNSIGNED a successful partnership was launched for 2017 with Jamaicans Inspired UK/EU (JAMIN) and this year the event was endorsed as an official Jamaica 55 event.
Contestants had to write and perform a song in any Reggae genre and were competing for an all-expenses paid trip to Jamaica, an opportunity to perform at the launch of Jamaica’s 55th Festival for Independence celebrations ‘Standing Ovation’ on the 29th July and invitations to perform at celebratory events in Jamaica and the UK.
Zeena, whose song ‘Who run de world’ wowed the audience, said: “I cried on stage when it was announced that I had won. I was so humbled by the recognition that I would get for all of my hard work but mostly because of the opportunity I now have to represent Jamaica – a country that is so close to my heart. In fact, I wear it on my sleeves. All the songs that I write, my style, my whole aura are a refection of my Jamaican influences. This competition means more to me than any other out there. It means so much to know that people really believe in me.”
Zeena fought hard for her title against other strong contestants – runner-up Camara Fearon and third in place, TeeJah Prayze. The other finalists were Emil Chambers, Ash I (Garfield Walker), Ronan Saddler and Nicci Marbles.
Born in the parish of St. Mary, Jamaica, Zeena grew up listening to Reggae. She moved to the UK in 2002 but still has fond memories of the live sound systems she listened to most weekends when interational artists would perform. Her style is unique and she is the only artiste to mix Mento, Reggae and Dancehall.
In attendance at the prestigious event was His Excellency George Ramocan, High Commissioner of Jamaica. He said: “The Jamaica High Commission is pleased to acknowledge this event as one of the sponsored events of the Jamaica 55 celebrations. I can’t express enough how much we appreciate the work that has been done to make this night happen. It is the first of its kind and I am extremely proud that the contestants are so deeply steeped in the country of Jamaica.”
The group of seven finalists represented a diverse group from across the UK. Judges Lorna Gee, Roy Medallion and Leroy Wilson were blown away by the high standards this year proving that the artistes were among the very best. A full list of the Song 4 Jamaica finalists can be found at www.jamaicans-inspired.com/song4ja
Chair of JAMIN, Nathaniel Peat, said: “Competition was strong and all seven finalists should be very proud of what they have achieved. They all really impressed the judges but Zeena is a formidable singer and although it was an extremely difficult decision she was the deserving winner. She has set the bar high and we are now excitedly planning the 2018 Song for Jamaica competition, which promises to be an even bigger event.”
Supporters of the event include Grace Foods, Luxury Events Group, MediaNet and Victoria Mutual Building Society.
– ends –
For further information please contact: –
Nathaniel Peat – 07886 969102
Jay Abdul – 07952 339185
Note to Editors:
Jamaicans Inspired UK evolved out of the Jamaica Diaspora Future Leaders, which was a body separated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in Jamaica in 2009 from the then Jamaica Diaspora Youth Association (JDYA).
The JA Diaspora Future Leaders was founded by young people for young people to create opportunities that will elevate and empower young people within Jamaica and the Global Young Leaders of Jamaica Network.
UKUNSIGNED is a division of SABA, a UK registered performing arts charity.
Zeena Banks (left) and Lorna Gee (right)
Finalists on Stage with His Excellency George Ramocan, High Commissioner of Jamaica, Nathaniel Peat and hosts.
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) – High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK) Seth George Ramocan, will launch the Jamaica 55 Diaspora Conference and the Jamaica 55 celebrations in London, on Thursday, June 1.The conference will be held over the period July 23 to 26 at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, under the theme ‘Partnering for Growth’. It is one of the key activities of Jamaica’s 55th Independence anniversary celebrations.
Acting Director of the Diaspora Affairs Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Lincoln Downer said that a Jamaica 55 UK Steering Committee that was recently established by the Jamaican High Commission will play a key role at the launch.
“They have assured me that it will be exciting and engaging. I am told that there will be a mento band to welcome participants,” he said, adding that Jamaicans living in the UK and members of various community-based organisations will be in attendance.
The acting director said every effort will be made by the Commission to encourage second, third, and fourth-generation Jamaica-UK citizens to attend the conference.
“They have been intrinsically involved in the Diaspora movement,” Downer said.
He pointed out that the Global Young Leaders of Jamaica, a network of young leaders from across the world, will have a session on the third day of the conference.
“We empowered them to develop the programme. They have selected a number of topics around youth engagement,” Downer said. He added the Young Leaders will be collaborating with other young people in Jamaica through the Youth Advisory Council of Jamaica.
“One of the outcomes that our minister wanted was to have that mechanism for engagement of the youth, so this is the start of the process,” he said