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Director of the National Museum Jamaica, Dr Jonathan Greenland (second left), shows historic artifacts on exhibit at the newly opened National Museum West to (from left): Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams; Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill; Minister of Local Government and Community Development Noel Arscott; chairman of the Tourism Enhancement Fund, Senator Noel Sloley; and Venezuelan Ambassador to Jamaica Maria Jacqueline Mendoza Ortega. The officials were touring the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in historic Sam Sharpe Square following its official opening on Friday, July 11.

TEF invests $100m in MoBay Cultural Centre

The Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) has invested over $100 million in the creation of Montego Bay's first cultural centre.

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment Dr Wykeham McNeill disclosed at the official opening of the Montego Bay Cultural Centre (MBCC) in the historic Sam Sharpe Square on Friday (July 11) that to date, the TEF has contributed some $109 million to its development.

The minister also hinted that more was in store for the square which has played an important role in several stages of national development. The former civic centre stands on the site of the old courthouse. In 1832, it was in that very court house that the trial of national hero, Samuel Sharpe and hundreds of other slaves, who were accused in the slave rebellion of December 1831, were conducted.

Iconic spot

Labelling it "an iconic spot in its own right", McNeill said "discussions are already under way involving the parish council, the TEF, owners of businesses in the area and other stakeholders to transform Sam Sharpe Square into the architectural jewel I know it has the potential to become".

With details to be worked out, McNeill said this will be a major logistic and planning undertaking, but given the status of the square in national life, "it certainly has the potential to be an attraction in its own right". He has urged civic leaders and private sector interests to support this initiative.

Originally named Charles Square, the city's commercial centre was later renamed Sam Sharpe Square in honour of Samuel Sharpe, whose life was taken on the gallows in the square for his leading role in the rebellion. A monument to the hero and the many other slaves who were also hung graces the square beside the building known as The Cage, which, during that era, was used as a slave lock-up.

Other agencies involved

McNeill lauded the pivotal role other ministers, government officials, as well as public and private-sector entities played in transforming the facility into Montego Bay's long desired cultural centre. He noted that "over the years, there have been cries from the people of Montego Bay for the transformation of the city into not merely a tourism centre which focuses on sun, sea and sand, but a cultural tourism centre". The minister added that "people also want to see visible signs that represent the city's contribution to tourism, and the Tourism Enhancement Fund has been responding in a very big way".

He asserted that the TEF is dedicated to fulfilling its mission "of promoting growth and development in the tourism sector, recognising that tourism does not exist in a vacuum, but is closely linked to various other sectors important to national development and improving the quality of life of Jamaicans."

The Montego Bay Cultural Centre will house the National Gallery West, National Museum West, facilities for the performing arts and a bistro and will also have a gift shop and an artisan village. These are complemented by an impressive cenotaph bearing the names of slaves who were killed in the 1831 rebellion. 

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