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Night mayor needed - Jamaica urged to follow European cities

Published:Thursday | July 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Keona Williams (rigt) with entertainer Danielle D.I.
Christina Grand
Dancing in full flight at the Wray & Nephew White Rum Bikini Street Dance, Greenwich Farm, St Andrew, last year.
Dr Donna Hope
Part of the crowd at the 'Yesterday...Best of the 90s' retro musuic party' at Mas Camp, National Stadium, last August.

It is no secret that Jamaica is one of the most culturally in-demand countries across the globe. It is also no secret that the country has a lot of catching up to do in terms of maximising its earnings from hosting entertainment events. Well aware of these two things, intellectual property specialist David Stopps has suggested that the country follow its European counterparts in appointing a night mayor.

A night mayor has similar duties to that of a regular mayor; however, the night mayor job is specifically centred on representing the night-time economy of a city while building relationships among event promoters, venues, the police, and government officials.

Stopps was speaking at the recent International Reggae Day Conference at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston. According to the author of the book How to Make a Living from Music, the night mayor is fairly new, but in the countries that have already appointed such a person, research has shown that there has been a huge economic boost.

"The night mayor's job is to make sure there is a vibrant night scene. Kingston needs a night mayor, someone who will champion the cause of bringing the country's night life back to the forefront. It is unbelievable the amount of money there is to make from adopting this approach if we get it right," he explained. "So you have the regular mayor of the city that goes up to 6 p.m. in the day, and the night mayor takes over from 6 until 3 in the morning."

Publicist Keona Williams agrees. Williams has worked with several entertainers throughout her career and has also been part of the promotional team for one of the biggest dancehall stage shows in Jamaica, Sting. With first-hand knowledge of the music industry, Williams believes the concept of a night mayor is a great one.

"We should definitely have an office dedicated to overseeing nightly affairs. The fact that Jamaica is considered to be the entertainment Mecca of the Caribbean makes this a dire need," she explained. "With the majority of the country's entertainment events taking place after dark and with such an enormously rich culture, the potential exists for Jamaica to have as affluent a nightlife as that of a Las Vegas."




Christina Grand, director of operations at the Reggae Embassy, also agreed that the appointment of a night mayor could only result in positive things for the local economy but believes that the concept should not be limited to just the city of Kingston. "I strongly feel that to build the nightlife in Jamaica, not just in Kingston, I think it's the most brilliant idea that Jamaica could adopt," she said.

Grand explained that while the idea was excellent, it needed proper execution to work. "It needs to be done strategically. Everyone needs to benefit from this. The taxes on businesses in Jamaica are too high. The Government really needs to do things differently in Jamaica where this is concerned. They need to think about not just the big businesses, but the small businesses, and just like they give a break on tax to the hotels, they're going to need to do that for the small businesses that make the city's nightlife thrive because the whole point of this initiative will be to better the economy and create jobs for the people."

There is the belief that the night mayor should not only be knowledgeable about the creative industries, but trustworthy and not necessarily attached to the Government. "It can work as long as they're getting an ethical person who doesn't turn out to be a nightmare because, unfortunately, there are people out there who are corrupt, and with something like this you have to make sure you choose the right person," Grand said.

Williams agreed. "I would recommend that this individual be passionate about the local entertainment scene and be abreast of First World countries' strategies to significantly boost the economy, because I believe this an excellent idea for Jamaica's cities."

Dr Donna Hope, cultural analyst and senior lecturer at the Institute of Caribbean Studies and The Reggae Studies Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, said the appointment should not be political. "There is a range of nightlife activities that takes place in Kingston that is not understood by policymakers, politicians, or others who spend their days in offices," she said "The person should be elected in a fashion similar to that done in Amsterdam, where he or she is elected by a combination of online votes from the public, attendees of a music festival, etc. It really shouldn't be a clear political appointment. And the person should be young. I am not into ageism, but a role like this would need someone who can actually contribute fresh ideas and communicate clearly with the mainly young cohort of persons who form the core of the market for a lot of the events that take place in Kingston at night."

Janice Young, CEO of Street Cred Jamaica, a company involved in artiste booking and event promotion, added that a board of directors should be appointed to undertake the task of handling the country's nightlife as opposed to one individual.

The idea of a night mayor was inspired by Amsterdam, which appointed its first night commissioner in 2014 to help rebuild relationships among local authorities, businesses, and the residents in order to support the night-time economy. This has led to a transformation of Amsterdam's nightlife culture, making it one of the biggest music destinations in Europe, hosting a wide range of festivals and music events year-round.

The success of the night mayor in Amsterdam encouraged other cities such as Paris, Zurich, and Berlin to create their own representative bodies to help support and promote their night scenes.