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Feel the vibe for Jamaica 55

COMING TOGETHER: Event organiser Dean Alexander

CELEBRATIONS FOR Jamaica's 55th birthday will transform the heart of Birmingham into a sea of black, gold and green as the ‘jewel of the Caribbean’ celebrates its 55th year of independence with a three-day street festival.

Jamaica in the Square II will be held in the city’s Victoria Square between Friday August 4 and Sunday August 6 with stage shows, a Jamaican market, music, food and jerk shows, sound systems and a flag raising ceremony on the Sunday 6th – Independence Day.

Organised by the Association of Jamaican Nationals, the event, led by Dean Alexander, promises Birmingham a return to the buzz of 2012 when Jamaica turned 50 and had also celebrated hosting the Jamaican Track and Field team for their pre-Olympic training camp in the two weeks before London 2012.

Seth George Ramocan, Jamaica’s High Commissioner for the UK, who was at the official launch party of Jamaica in the Square II at the Velvet Music Rooms, paid Birmingham the ultimate compliment. To cheers and applause, he said:

“When I come here to Birmingham I feel like I am in Jamaica!

“Something like this brings the community together and gives us the opportunity to showcase the many talents, the struggles and the successes that this community has made. Here in Birmingham you have some of the most distinguished members of the Jamaican UK community who have contributed to the UK.

PRAISE: His Excellence Seth George Ramocan, Jamaican High Commissioner, applauds the Birmingham Caribbean community

“This 55th year means a lot to us as a nation. The slogan we are using is: ‘Celebrating Jamaicans at home and abroad.’ Our aim is to build public awareness of the significant contribution that the Jamaican UK community has made to the wellbeing of Britain.

“Thousands of Jamaicans came here to help rebuild Britain in the Windrush days and before to help make it the fifth largest economy in the world – so many Jamaicans helped to make this a reality. They gave of themselves to build this country, so I salute that generation of Jamaicans who made a difference through blood, sweat and tears.

“On behalf of Jamaica we want to thank you for keeping the heritage and culture going. You have worked to bring up your families and build up your own lives but you have never forgotten Jamaica.

“You have placed Jamaica on the map here in this country by holding events such as this. Your pride shines through.
“Jamaica is not a military superpower; it is not an economic superpower, it’s a cultural superpower – it has been able to cross borders and break down walls. To take a message to other countries that the Rastafarian movement has carried, saying that Jamaica is a strong superpower, culturally.

“I salute you and the many artists of Jamaica for their songs of love and freedom. So when you celebrate Jamaica in Victoria Square, stand proud and stand tall, but don’t be selfish – share Jamaica because Jamaica is not only for Jamaicans – Jamaica belongs to the world.”

FLYING THE FLAG: Children taking part in a church service in Handsworth commemorate Jamaica's independence

Steve Hollingworth, Birmingham City Council’s Director of Sport, Events and Parks, said it was fitting that Jamaica’s independence celebrations should be held next month in the heart of the city to give the local Jamaican community the profile they deserve.

Hollingworth, who helped to secure the deal for the Jamaican Olympic track and field team to make Birmingham their base before London 2012, said:

“We’ve made some fantastic relationships with Jamaica and more importantly we’ve sustained them because they’re coming back.

“At the Olympics I remember how fantastic it was for Birmingham when Bolt, Blake and Warren Weir bigged-up our city and publicly thanked us after the 200m final.

In a video message of support, Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange, Jamaica’s culture minister praised Birmingham’s plans to celebrate Jamaica 55 in the heart of the city, turning Victoria Square into a massive Jamaican ‘grand market.’

Artists during the three days will include Luciano, Aswad, Janet Kay and JC Lodge, along with a gospel fest cooking demos, a Jamaican film festival, a Jamaica Unplugged concert and dance classes.

Leighton Smith, chief representative officer of Victoria Mutual, which is one of the main sponsors of Jamaica in the Square, said his company was delighted to be supporting the event as it also allowed them to support and personally connect with the local Jamaican community.

Beverly Lindsay OD,OBE, VLL, who chairs the Association of Jamaicans, who thanked the High Commissioner and her son Dean, added that organisers were still looking for some volunteers to help during the three-day event.

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