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Festival recreates Jamaica in London

It could easily be mistaken for a community in Jamaica. The smell of jerk chicken whiffed through the air from blackened jerk pans while black, green and gold clothing and souvenirs adorned the stalls.
This may not be a real Jamaican community, but organisers of Festival Jamaica 2012 certainly came close to recreating one within six minutes walk of the Olympic Park here where hundreds of thousands will be gathered daily to watch the games.
The Jamaican colours attached to a blimp floating high above Maryland School in Stratford where the event is being staged is expected to be a sure eye catcher to many over the next 17 days.
Organiser Colin Robinson describes the festival as recreating Jamaica for the diaspora and visitors alike.
From the sunny beach, a street corner in Trench Town, to the coconut man and the one-room board house it was all created for Jamaicans to reminisce or make foreigners want to visit the Caribbean island to experience the rich culture for themselves.
“When you come to this village that we have created it makes you feel as if you want to go to Jamaica right now,” Robinson told the Jamaica Observer, as he pointed to a set of dutch pots stacked in one corner.
Patrons to the festival will also get the opportunity to watch the Olympic Games on big screen as well as to enjoy live reggae performances. Others can take a stroll in the garden filled with authentic Jamaican flowers or view the reggae exhibition.
Robinson explained further that when the idea first came to him to host this festival, after the Jamaica Village which was to be held in Findley Park was scrapped, he approached Lorna Jackson, headmistress of the Maryland School and a Jamaican, and she was only too happy to help.
In addition to allowing for the festival to be staged on the school grounds, Robinson said Jackson donated £5,000 of her own money to make it a success as well as provided many of the Jamaican items such as the dutch pots, etc.
Robinson, however, expressed regret that the Jamaica Tourist Board never saw it fit to support the event, although they were invited to. Such an event, he argued, will offer a significant boost to Jamaica’s tourism as it is now attracting attention from media such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), which will be filming from there.
“This is the only place where tourists will come and see a recreation of Jamaica and know how we built this village from scratch,” he said.
Meanwhile, celebrity chef Collin Brown of Chef Collin Brown Restaurant, a premiere Jamaican eatery in east London, will be preparing the meals for those seeking that special dining experience at the festival.
“My job is to ensure that the food goes out a certain way and the standard is maintained,” said the twice winner of the AA rosettes.
BY INGRID BROWN Associate editor — special assignment

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