Backstage to the Future - Rebel Salute 'job-shadowing' programme
A two-year-old partnership between the upcoming Rebel Salute reggae music festival (January 18 & 19) and the British Council aims to raise the professional standard of the festival sector of the entertainment industry by building bridges between Jamaican festival professionals and the UK market.
According to the director of the Backstage to the Future training programme, Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, the British Council is focused on creating opportunities and platforms for young people and professionals to thrive in education, social enterprise and the arts. Participants in the programme have receive training in Colombia at the Green Room Festival - held annually in San Andres. These trainees then return to Jamaica for hands-on training and job shadowing at Rebel Salute.
The training programme is a collaborative arts and culture skills platform where persons from Jamaica, Cuba, Venezuela and Colombia are trained in stage management, sound engineering and lighting.
This year marks the second year that Jamaica will participate in the programme. Last year's programme provided two young men from the Alpha Boys' School the opportunity to be trained in Colombia. Live local event production specialist Ryan Bailey also went as a trainer. For this year's programme, the local cohort has increased from two to five.
"I know that sounds like a very small amount, but it's an important, incremental increase," Jacobs-Bonnick assured. An additional five who did not get the opportunity to visit Colombia, will be job shadowing at Rebel Salute, learning from those who were trained last year.
"It's important to take small steps towards where we need to be. What we're doing here together is slowly but surely contributing to the network of expertly trained live event Jamaican professionals," she added. This year's cohort will also be going to Cuba for more hands-on experience.
Following the council's engagement with Rebel Salute last year, the festival's production manager, Bailey, was selected as a trainer in the programme. He went to San Andres in August for an exploratory trip of the Green Room Festival. The second trip in September was the training programme - meant to empower the participants, and facilitate the next stage of their professional development.
"It's important to develop the industry for people to realise that there are more parts to the industry than being on the stage. It takes technical know-how," Bailey told The Gleaner. He, along with trainees Sajay Watson and Bruce Fraser, spent a little over two weeks in San Andres.
Bailey was particularly excited that one of the trainees focused on lighting. "An engineer is not so far-fetched, but in terms of lighting technicians, we don't have a lot. There are other aspects of the industry we should want to develop to elevate the level of our productions, and have a real show. It's not about someone going on stage and jumping around, but other aspects that add value - enhancing the vision, creating mood, nuance and telling a story. Because presentation is important."
Watson wraps up his training experience in one word - "amazing". Along with learning production techniques and approaches, he spoke of aspects of his personal development that took place. "I brought back a 'never give up' attitude. Normally, when it comes to work and how I respond to people, I'd leave it. But from the people around me in the programme - now I never give up."
Bailey praised the programme, saying, "If I were to give my assessment, I would say I was quite pleased that they were involved. These are students who could have chosen another path in life. I commend them for making the choice."
Watson is excited about the upcoming festival, telling The Gleaner simply, "It's overwhelming, in a very good way."