CMEA: ‘No respect for entertainers’

Association president says local artists are getting the shaft

The president of the Cayman Music and Entertainment
Association said he was disheartened to learn the association has been left off
the Tourism Advisory Council, which advises Premier McKeeva Bush on policy
issues regarding tourism.

Jean-Eric Smith explained why he thought no representation
by the CMEA on the Tourism Advisory Council was an indictment on the government
and their priorities and added that other groups, such as the Tourism
Attraction Board, the Tour Operators Association and CNCF should also be
represented on the Tourism Advisory Council.

“Musicians and entertainers have never been included in the
Tourism Advisory Council and even though I urged those charged with appointing
the council last year to include us when the new council was chosen, I only
learnt recently that the council was chosen and we were once again omitted,
along with other important stakeholders in the tourism industry.”

The CMEA president said, “This is why the Cayman Jazz
Festival is nonexistent. We have a Caymanian Music Association that had
absolutely no input in planning a music festival in Cayman. But we are always
an after thought and that is why we have ivory tower hotels that are not
equipped with one bandstand. It’s because musicians and entertainers do not
have a say when decision, policies, standards and laws are being made that will
ultimately affect them.”

He said food and beverage purveyors – who comprise most of
the Tourism Advisory Council currently – are not in a position to speak about
entertainment, as the two are “polar opposites” and are, in fact, at times at
conflict.

“It is a conflict of interest to have the people who hire
entertainers and musicians making policy for those they employ. There needs to
be representation for entertainers and artists at all levels,” said Mr. Smith,
who explained that currently the Cayman Islands Tourism Association has all the
influence, “which is not right. They are only food and beverage.”

Deputy Chief Officer in the Ministerial Council, which
appoints the Tourism Advisory Council, Mr. Dalton Watler said the Tourism
Advisory Council is made up of members that are left to the discretion of the
Premier. He added that if any group wanted to be on the Tourism Advisory
Council, they could do so by making their request through the Cayman Islands
Tourism Association.

“Many agencies claim they are a part of the tourism product
but it is left up to the discretion of the Premier, as not everyone can be on
the board,” Mr. Watler said. “CITA represents the interest of all sectors and
any group wishing to be a part of the Tourism Advisory Council can request to
do so through them.”

Mr. Watler said he could not answer why the CMEA, an entity
that instructs the decision making of the Immigration Department with regard to
work permits for entertainers, as well as an official part of the Ministry of
Culture did not meet the Premier’s standard in terms of discretion for a role
on his advisory council.

Neither could he explain why other groups have not been
included or asked to be a part of it, even though those groups have legitimacy
in the community.     

Currently only CITA is represented.

Mr. Smith said he felt any statement promoting CITA as the
place to make representations for inclusion in the Tourism Advisory Council was
either a “cop out” or incorrect, and he reiterated the decisions regarding the
composition of the Tourism Advisory Council took place at the ministerial
level.

This was confirmed by Department of Tourism Manager Rosa
Harris, who told the Caymanian Compass, “the decisions regarding who becomes a
part of the Tourism Advisory Council are made by the Ministerial Council.”

Calls to the Ministry of Tourism for more information about
how the Premier decides who will serve as his advisers on the Tourism Advisory
Council were not returned.

Lack of respect 

The president of the music association said he was livid
about the treatment and lack of respect musicians have endured in the Cayman
Islands over the years.

“Every Caribbean Island under the sun has sand, sun and
beach. What makes a place different is its offerings in terms of entertainment
and culture, neither of which are priorities in the Cayman Islands,” Smith
said. “Everyone comes here and the complaint is the same: We are bored.”

Mr. Smith said, “We have young Caymanians investing in this
country and going unnoticed. Many of them are making music and videos that
depict the Cayman Islands and in turn promote this place on radio, the
Internet, and places too numerous to mention for all of us. Yet no entity will
stop and take the time to partner with them. I think everyone would agree that
this would be a clever way for the Department of Tourism to market the Cayman
Islands. It would be interesting to see what would happen if we put this kind
of development of Cayman’s people and culture in the tourism budget and made it
a priority.”

Mr. Smith said the Cayman Music and Entertainment
Association should also be represented on the Liquor Licencing Board.

Last year, local musicians had to “mop up” after overseas
firm Chowder was chosen for the DOT’s add campaign, causing outrage among local
musicians, Mr. Smith said.

“We ultimately accepted the government’s gesture to include
us after the fact and produced the song for the promotion with a Caymanian
flavour, as the add agency used by the DOT had more of a Texas Barbecue vibe.
We have nothing against that, but we gave them fish and fritters instead,”
he said.

notch

CMEA President Jean-Eric Smith at the recent Muzaic Festival.
STUART WILSON

1 COMMENT

  1. Membership at the discretion of the Premier…why? If this is supposed to be a Council representing the national interest of Cayman, the membership should be specified in its Law or Charter, with the usual minimum of members appointed in the discretion of the Premier (or anyone else, for that matter).
    This seems to be another indication of the anti-democratic and potentially corrupt channelling of too much power into one pair of hands.

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