Kingston, Jamaica deserves a better press.
In the recent Secret Caribbean TV series, legendary Trinidadian-born British newsreader Sir Trevor McDonald travelled the along the archipelago visiting paradise islands, top-end resorts and workaday cities. It made for great viewing: Trevor proved as engaging a guide to the Caribbean as he was a comforting voice bringing good news and bad to British TV screens every night for decades. The programme showed both the paradise and poverty that’s found in the region.
One thing I didn’t agree with was the portrayal of Jamaica and more specifically, Kingston. In choosing to highlight gang violence and British prisoners in Jamaican jails the programme simply didn’t do Kingston, and Jamaica, justice.
I visited Kingston while writing a piece for the Observer on the city’s exciting nightlife and, being new to the Caribbean, I didn’t know what to expect. What followed were a few days visiting record shops and recording studios where ska, reggae and dancehall were born and eating some seriously tasty takes on fiery Jamaican food. It’s got Red Stripe beer, all the Bob Marley you can handle and anarchic street parties where Kingstonians demonstrate astonishingly racy dancing, often on top of their neighbours cars.
Without wishing to gloss over what’s not postcard-perfect – as no Jamaican you met would – I left convinced that the island offered a little taste of everything that’s in the region coupled with an honesty that sometimes gets lost in trying to sell the Caribbean dream. I rambled round the city quite happily and felt safety was not really an issue. As Sir Trevor found, there are areas you don’t go but this is true of cities the world over. Trouble remains confined to these locales and beyond them Kingston feels walkable, friendly and full of fun.
Worth another trip, Sir Trev?