The Gleaner NA July Special Edition

Yasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer THE EMANCIPATIONDay holiday on August 1 will see the return of a float and street parade that infuses the rich tapestry of the island’s culture in a grand celebration of Jamaica’s diamond jubilee. The excitement is palpable for those working behind the scenes to bring this one-of-a-kind extravaganza to life. Creatives, including costume designers, dressmakers, tailors and float builders, are currently working assiduously to meet their deadline to dress the 1,000 costumed revellers and mount what is being described as “the massive, halfmile-long flotilla on wheels” that will wend its way, with much pomp and pageantry, from the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre on Hope Road to the National Stadium car park on Arthur Wint Drive. Award-winning costume designer and choreographer extraordinaire Vincent Douglas is a pro at this, having worked on previous parades, and having won several medals at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission competitions over the past decades. Douglas is responsible for dressing 200 persons, and he and his technical assistant, Alston Hemmings, are super satisfied withmany things. At the top of the list is the fact that so many youngsters will be a part of history when they put on their costumes and get into their roles to recount the glorious story of an Independent Jamaica. “I am working under pressure, but I am very enthusiastic. The arts is a part of me, and anything that concerns the arts makes me excited,” said Douglas, who was the first choreographer for the renowned Tivoli Dancers and who was honoured in 2014 by the Kathanghah Dance Company and the Tivoli Dance Alumni at a ceremony in New York. He added: “We have all the materials, like the foam and cardboard that we need, and we will definitely complete the job by our deadline on July 28. We have two dressmakers and tailors, and everybody is aware of the importance of this undertaking. The designs cover a period from the ‘60s to the present. We will be exploring the development of the music from mento through to ska, rocksteady and reggae, and also looking at a very important group – the farmers. Each group will have 100 persons, and their costumes will tell their story.” Inside Douglas’ workshop at the Kingston Technical High School, where he taught dance for many years, this fascinating story is taking shape as he and his assistants, Ramone Plunkett, Tara-Lee Salmon and Paul Thompson, work in harmony. Sketches of the designs are displayed on a whiteboard, and costumes and associated props can be seen in various stages of completion. There are cardboard cut-outs representing slices of melon; huge plastic food protectors, which will be decorated to look like real baskets; and guitars made fromply and stuffed with foam. “We have 100 persons who will be following the musical float, and that ‘Blaze of colour’ promised as floats, street parade return on Emancipation Day Alston Hemmings, a technical assistant, checks the quality of the guitar carving during the construction of costumes at the Kingston Technical High School, Hanover St, Kingston, for the Independence Day roadmarch. PHOTOS BY NICHOLAS NUNES/PHOTOGRAPHER Horacio Heslop, one of the head welders in the construction of the Independence Day road march, is welding costume structures at the Kingston Technical High School, Hanover St, Kingston. Costume designer Vincent Douglas (centre) checks on the progress of cut-outs with Tara-Lee Salmon (left) and Ramone Plunkett (right) at the Kingston Technical High School, Hanover Street, Kingston. PLEASE SEE EMANCIPATION, 32 THE MONTHLY GLEANER | JULY 31 - OCTOBER 21, 2022 | | FEATURE