Five Questions with ... Debbie Bissoon
Deborah ‘Debbie’ Bissoon is a name that, when mentioned, reverberates throughout the entire entertainment industry. One of the few ‘female bosses’ in the music sphere, Bissoon wears multiple hats – from TV and radio host to emcee extraordinare to, most recently, festival manager. Also, a devoted mother, sister and daughter, Bissoon makes no qualms about what has led to her growth and development throughout the years. She is a stickler for balance. She believes that once one learns to juggle all one’s responsibilities, success is inevitable. In this week’s edition of 5 Questions With ..., we get a closer look at the woman who continues to level up and surpass expectations.
1. Gleaner: How do you juggle all your daytime jobs and being a full-time mother?
Debbie: Juggling my daytime jobs and being a mother is not easy at all, but that’s the reason why you have good structures in place. A good school, good family members, good friends will help a lot. I have a wonderful little boy that I adore and he’s the reason, the pulse of everything I do. Every morning I wake up and I look at him, I understand how much harder I have to work. I believe in breaking generational cycles and for a black family to be able to set certain things in motion where the child inherits and not the other way around where the child has to come and take care of the family.
2. Gleaner: What made you want to get even more involved in the entertainment industry (outside of being a radio and TV host)?
Debbie: This is where my personal interest is. Having travelled to different parts of the world and seeing how different countries manage to curate, package, distribute and monetise their cultures, it made me understand the value of Jamaica’s culture and Jamaica’s entertainment industry. I want to see what I can do, what I can learn and what I can offer; how else I can contribute to opening more doors for people.
3. Gleaner: What has it been like working as part of the team that will bring back Reggae Sunsplash?
Debbie: It’s a very dynamic team that we have. We have persons who are CEOs and board of director members who understand business and are pairing that with entertainment in the way it’s supposed to be packaged and presented. It’s hard work that requires us looking back at the history, the contributions of the members who founded the festival and the artistes who worked the festival as well, and just doing right by that history while preparing to advance into the future. It has been a very interesting journey, no lie. I’ve learnt a lot and it’s going to be a good one.
4. Gleaner: What will be different about the festival when it returns?
Debbie: You will have to wait and see in 2020, that’s all I can tell you (laughs). The truth is that for this return staging, what we want to do is pay homage to all the artistes before the 2000s on night one, and then on night two we’re gonna be going from the 2000s into the current. We’re doing it in St Ann which is smack in the middle of the island so it’s a good commute for persons coming from all over the island. Grizzly’s has the capacity to hold the numbers we’re trying to pull and so I think it’s gonna be great.
5. Gleaner: Recently it was being said that the festival scene in Jamaica was running on life support. What do you think about the space now that the number of festivals will grow to three come next year?
Debbie: I don’t know about life support because people will go wherever they find something that is pulling. You have to add other things to the festival offering that will interest people because a festival is not just about coming and watching your favourite artistes on stage. And we have a lot of artistes who were not booked for those two major platforms [Reggae Sumfest and Rebel Salute] last year who are still there waiting. People underestimate the amount of talent that we have in this country. The fact is that entertainment and festival promoters have to get very creative in terms of their pitching. Even if you’re going to repeat artistes in the presentation, it’s how you put the whole package together that will make people want to come.