Financing creativity-a webinar, plus some further thoughts

I’m not a night owl, so when I was asked to do a webinar I was gungho till I heard it would start at 7.30pm ‘backstage’ and go live at 8pm. We seniors need our rest; I’m up before 5am most days. But, the hosts were so charming and when I had the run through with Kenia Mattis on Monday, I told myself to ‘man up’ and take an even longer nap so that I would not be all droopy eyed. Well, so much for the nap and my mind was racing all over the place as Parliament opened and bits of news filtered through about the latest shenanigans in the PNP.

Anyway, we got underway as scheduled, so watch the recording and I’ll be happy to field any questions or comments on what I had to offer.

As an economist, I see the ‘financing’ a bit differently from Gary Peart and Dahlia Harris, in that I think about what support needs to be in terms of its ultimate value. So, as I tried to explain, a person seeking support for a creative venture is seeking money as a means to an end, but may find life easier being direct about getting the support for the ‘end’, say the building of a workshop. So, a supporter who’s prepared to provide materials and labour is better in that this removes a layer of negotiating to get to the real objective. That’s just to stress that those demanding support need to be nimble in seeing what opportunities present themselves and not be fixated on that support being in monetary form.

My economics training helps me understand the importance of various forms of economic integration. Much of this happens spontaneously—I mentioned last night the clustering of car component firms in the metropolitan area around Hagley Park Road. Sometimes, it needs some help from the State or other interest support groups.

I think such integration is important going forward and see glimpses of it in Jamaica is the beginnings of ‘incubating’ communities, where creative people can integrate and build synergies. I mentioned communities known for being the homes of many creative spirits, such as Greenwich Village in New York City. But, the Village is the home of many ‘fringe’ elements, and is seen as ‘counter cultural’. I’d like to think of it as Bohemian, and think of places like Notting Hill, in west London, in a similar way. But, world-wide, creativity can originate anywhere, but it sometimes needs some clustering to be better nurtured.

There’s interesting literature on ‘creative clusters’ and the idea has useful pointers for generating economic growth and urban renewal. But, it’s not all upsides and can also be trigger for socioeconomic friction (as with gentrification, in general).

One of the features in many developed societies is for such clustering to be part of the resurgence of urban areas (aka ‘gentrification’). Though not really a feature in Jamaica or many developing countries, I’m looking at what groups like Jamaica Creatives are doing in downtown Kingston to see if it is planting such ‘green shoots’. The government now has a Cabinet minister in charge of urban renewal, so let’s see what he brings to the table.

That said, Jamaica’s cultural heritage is national and its rural roots and underpinning are as important and anything that happens in the capital and the metropolitan area.

Done to a tee

Jamaica is full of ingenious people, and many of them are humble in every sense, may have little formal education, may not have anything that would class as much wealth, but they have a rich education in the art of survival at the University of Life.

I was out playing golf this morning, with a lady neighbour and her caddy. We’d spoken a few days ago about the dearth of sponsorship that the sport attracts, in large part because it’s seen as elitist and for people with ample means. I told her that the golf community perhaps needed to put that image back at the detractors by flagging at least the humble origins of the latest winner of the Jamaica’s Seafreight National Amateur Golf Championships: Paul Thompson hails from Cassava Piece, dubbed one of Jamaica’s crudest ‘garrisons’, but ironically, adjacent to Constant Spring Golf Course. That same day, and since, we’ve seen some of the ‘elite’ golfers on the course: one was about 4, using a borrowed glove and club that was his height, with his father teaching him, neither of them had anything elite about them except the possibility of one day beating the world’s best. Four caddies teed off ahead of us the other morning: one was wearing water boots; another had a shirt that had so many big holes it was a surprise he knew where to put his neck. None of them hit a tee shot that was less than 280 yards. A brute dem! I drooled as one took a driver shot through a narrow passage and found the green, 300 yards away. Elite? Tek weh yuself!

As happens too often, some little thing (literally, sometimes) throws you off your game. Today, my partner and I needed to hit a tee shot that required a short (not regular or long) tee; players often just pick up a broken tee for this purpose. As luck would have it, none could be found on the ground. I happened to have one in my pocket and passed it to my playing partner. She and the caddy then lamented the recent death of a man who used to scour the course for broken tees, sharpen them, teesand then sell them to players for the very purpose we sought. I don’t know his prices but it’s a viable business: during the course of the next few holes played we needed four more such tees. I suggested to the caddy that he should think about resurrecting the dead man’s business, it could do more than add chump change to his caddy fees.

That’s the latest in the litany of ideas that make so much sense and need little by way of material. Jamaica is famous for its push carts, which see their heydays in a national derby each August and are credited with inspiring the creation of a national bobsled team, made famous in the film ‘Cool Runnings’. cart1Anyone taking a road trip will see many vendors along the roadside. Jamaica recycles, but not the way they do in the USA or UK, perhaps. Used white rum bottles seem to be the choice for refilling with home-made honey: maybe tourists have been fooled into thinking that some other substance is in those bottles. With a little extra dressing up, those people who like to see everything with a label and want to go goggle-eyed at the ‘creativity of artisans’ would be soon pulling out more dollar bills for some of that stuff. The Rasta I met the other day comes back to mind, who was roasting his peanuts in a drum made from a used cooking gas cylinder. The man who’s making a concoction of noni and prickly pear, and claims that it will help cure my father-in-law’s knee joint problems, deserves his mention, too. The ‘system’ may have no means to help these people do more than they do now, but they shouldn’t be ignored when we look for ideas and marvel and the latest high-tech solution that someone proposes, forgetting that basic and low-tech are still very much in need.

True enough, that same ingenuity is not always used in ways that seem so socially responsible: raiding the electricity grid with drop cords, for example; tapping off a neighbours water supply, for another example; using used and worn tyres to make footwear, etc. But, we don’t want to stifle it. Nurture it. Tap it. Use it.