Style Observer

My Kingston - Michael Holgate

Tutor Coordinator, Philip Sherlock Centre for the Creative Arts; Artistic Director, The Ashe Company

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Print this page Email A Friend!

What are your fondest memories of Kingston?

My fondest memories of Kingston — Grand Gala over the many years I have been involved. There is something magical about so many different artists and communities (some from so-called 'inner-cities') working together to create beautiful art performance for the rest of the country, on the day we celebrate Independence.

What is the most enjoyable meal you have had in Kingston?

One from the UWI Social Welfare Canteen... to die for!

What would you do if you were mayor of Kingston?

I would create a zone of arts and culture downtown along the waterfront with galleries and craft shops and performing art spaces representing the different nations that have contributed to the development of our society. To do this I would convert many of the buildings downtown into usable arts spaces and allow artists to invest in their art while providing them with a 'peppercorn lease' to support their development. Then I would invite in the cruise ships to make the arts zone financially viable.

What advice would you give to a first-time visitor to Kingston?

I would simply say 'Walk with friends. Make new friends. Be observant and feel the energy of the place. Walk more than you drive. Walk good.'

Who/what is your primary source of inspiration?

My mentor, the late Joseph E Robinson, contributed greatly to my development into the person I am today. I share his firm beliefs in 1. The performing arts as a tool for social development and education 2. The performing arts as a profession, not just a part-time activity after work. 3. Empowerment as the greatest gift we can give ourselves.

In what ways can the performing arts be used as teaching-learning tools?

The performing arts are always making a statement. Sometimes they are deliberately teaching and at other times we get a moral lesson based on what the director believes in. I like to deliberately communicate ideas and concepts to an audience. It is not propaganda because I try to present all sides and allow the audience to draw conclusions.

How have the performing arts helped to reshape the entertainment landscape of Kingston?

Our performing arts are the essential ingredients in all that we do. Our music is political and our politics has a soundtrack going back decades and even centuries. We sing ourselves free and we sing and dance through our joys and sorrows daily. The dancehall space is the new theatre space. It is alive with adventure, politics, social commentary and excitement. There is riddim in our streets. Our landscape is background to an unofficial music video. Every street corner is a space of performance art expression. The energy of our streets is remarkable and our most important landscapes are not the ones architects design but the ones our bodies create moment to moment in performance. Creativity and performance are our lifeblood. Some of our best medical doctors, politicians, social workers, lawyers, accountants and economists are artists, musicians and theatre people.

What are the major challenges faced by the Jamaican theatre fraternity?

Coming together to create a body that represents us all and supports our development, despite our diverse expressions.

What more can theatre practitioners do to ensure the sustainability of the industry?

Form a union or body that represents us all.

The Ward is on its way to full restoration and will be featuring one of your pieces on the opening night. Which production is this and why?

GARVEY The Musical. There is a powerful connection between Garvey and the arts. He was a complete performer and many don't even know how he supported the development of the arts. I believe that even when he was being deported, he walked straight to the Ward ... and gave a speech there.

You're in an audience seat on Broadway, which show are you watching? Why?

Disney's The Lion King. One can never see enough of such a wonderful and spectacular show!

If you could produce any of your productions on Broadway, which would it be and why?

Again... GARVEY The Musical. I believe it represents well. It is Jamaican enough, Caribbean enough, Me enough, and, I think, Broadway enough. It is also most appropriate as Garvey himself went to the world from his Jamaican beginnings. I would love this work to do the same — a whirlwind tour, perhaps. “Look for me in the whirlwind,” Garvey once said.

Which undertaking has brought you the most gratification?

I could list three: 1. My involvement in The Ashe Company, 2. The Jamaica Dance Umbrella and 3. My book co-authored with Conroy B Wilson entitled Your Empowerment GPA.

How different are your processes for writing, directing and creating a new choreographic work?

My processes are unconventional, it seems. Everything starts with writing for me. It is the primary talent through which my other talents find expression. I'm most confident when it comes to my writing. I'm least confident when directing. I'm very much a 'praying fool' when I'm directing a show. I pray without ceasing. Although I love words, using them to create, with living breathing human beings as actors, can be extremely difficult. I love dance because the expression is non-verbal. It is almost like I'm painting a moving picture, but if that moving picture is not well conceptualised, it falls flat. When I choreograph I will sit with the concept in my head for a long time and listen to the music over and over, then when I get in the space with the dancers I improvise from a mind full of the concept. I hardly remember the last move I just did. I am improvising from that space. But I know when it feels right when I see it.

How important is mentorship in the performing arts industry?

Mentorship is extremely important in every industry. We stand on the shoulders of others to reach our highest heights. Mentors have done what we want to do and can give us useful feedback, prepare us for unexpected things, lift us out of expected pitfalls and show us the best way to climb to the top.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at




1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed:

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email:

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

comments powered by Disqus



Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon