Louise Bennett- Coverley a cultural icon for Jamaica was born on September 7, 1919. She was described as Jamaica’s leading comedienne, as the “only poet who has really hit the truth about her society through its own language”, and as an important contributor to her country of “valid social documents reflecting the way Jamaicans think and feel and live” Through her poems in Jamaican patois, she raised the dialect of the Jamaican folk to an art level which is acceptable to and appreciated by all in Jamaica.
Her contribution to Jamaican cultural life was such that she was honored with the M.B.E., the Norman Manley Award for Excellence (in the field of Arts), the Order of Jamaica (1974) the Institute of Jamaica’s Musgrave Silver and Gold Medals for distinguished eminence in the field of Arts and Culture, and in 1983 the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of the West Indies. In September 1988 her composition “You’re going home now”, won a nomination from the Academy of Canadian Cinema ad Television, for the best original song in the movie “Milk and Honey.”
In 1998 she received the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters from York University, Toronto, Canada. The Jamaican Government also appointed her Cultural Ambassador at Large for Jamaica. On Jamaica’s Independence Day 2001, Bennett-Coverley was appointed as a Member of the Order of Merit for her distinguished contribution to the development of the Arts and Culture. Ms. Lou was truly a Jamaican icon.
Miss Lou was from the rural community of Gordon Town in St. Andrew. The community of Gordon Town is a rural community located at the foot of the Blue Mountains and is most times quiet with a few tourists passing through by car or, cycling and hiking through the community heading to Blue Mountains. There are small rivers, springs and tributaries to the Hope River which tourists often stop by to take a swim.
Gordon Towns Square is the meeting ground of the community. The court house, police station, post office, health center and community center are located within the square. There are also small shops, wholesales, doctors office and bars located within Gordon Town Square. The JUTC buses and taxis also terminate within the square. This small town center is usually buzzing with the movement of people.
With the recent popularity of bed and breakfasts in and around the surrounding communities there has been a notable increase in local and international tourists to the community but the community has no real attraction that would encourage visitors to stay in the community. It is with this that the KSAMC has sought to embark upon a project to provide urban renewal to the Gordon Town Square. This urban renewal would involve making Miss. Lou the focal point of Square through the renovation of the physical infrastructure making it a tourist attraction designed as a tribute to the woman known as “the mother of Jamaican culture”. It is expected that the cosy village of Gordon Town, will see an increasing number of visitors both local and overseas, to pay homage to Jamaica’s most beloved cultural figure.
Scope Of Project
Phase 1 of the project began in late July 2018. This began with a public consultation at the community center. This was carried out to sensitize the community on the details of the project. Phase 1 entailed, creating a center for the placing a 8-foot larger–than-life statue of Miss Lou. The statue was designed by the artist Basil Watson and is made of bronze. The statue faces the southern entrance to the square, dominating the centre of the square. Phase 1 of the project was completed on September 7, 2018 which was the 100 the anniversary of Miss Lou’s birth.
On this day hundreds of Jamaicans led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and the Minister of Culture Gender and Entertainment crammed into the Gordon Town Square in the afternoon, to witness the unveiling of the statue. The ceremony entailed Ms. Lou’s poems and songs.
Phase 2 of the project will entail the enhancement of the buildings within the Square along with landscaping, paving the Square, renaming the Square “Miss Lou Square” and also establishing a City of Kingston Louise Bennett Exhibition Hall. This is expected to be completed by September 2019. With the completion of the project it is expected that the cozy village of Gordon Town, located a few miles outside the city of Kingston, will see an increasing number of visitors both local and overseas, to pay homage to Jamaica’s most beloved cultural figure. It is expected that the cozy village of Gordon Town, located a few miles outside the city of Kingston, will see an increasing number of visitors both local and overseas, to pay homage to Jamaica’s most beloved cultural figure.
There were several Key stakeholders and partnerships during phase 1 of the project which ia expected to continue through to the next phase. They were:
MONITORING AND EVALUATION
It is expected that the KSAMC’s City Engineers staff will manage, and monitor the project to its completion. After completion there will be a ceremony to officially rename the square and also present the Exhibition Hall to the public.
The future monitoring of the site will be carried out by staff of the KSAMC.