Title: Trench Town
This community in the Jamaican metropolis has the distinction of being the island’s most infamous inner city neighbourhood. Trench Town is the humble breeding ground for great Jamaican Reggae artists including Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. In the 1940s, the government began developing housing solutions for the masses of low-income people in the city of Kingston. Trench Town was one such development, named for the community’s location in what was then called Trench Pen. The development had areas separated for recreation, commerce and dwellings, with the residential areas divided into “yards” with communal sanitary conveniences and kitchen facilities. In these close confines the creativity blossomed, producing some of Jamaica’s most talented musicians and artists. Sadly, the conditions of living have not improved much since the 1940s. The community is still desperately impoverished, overcrowded and in dire need of infrastructure development and maintenance. The Trench Town Development Association (TTDA), a grassroots organisation funded by various development interests, is working to address the needs of the community.
One of the TTDA’s projects is the Trench Town Culture Yard, a bright and colourful set of buildings with the Jamaican and Rasta flags flying at the entrance. Located on First Street in a series of yards converted to one compound, the yard has always been an informal meeting place for musicians. From the early days, residents would set up sound systems inside the yard and hold dances on the bordering streets. The Culture Yard was created to encourage musicians, singers, artists and tourists to come to Trench Town to experience the “vibe” that inspired so many.
Trench Town is mentioned by name in one of Bob Marley’s most famous songs, the soulful hit tune “No Woman, No Cry”. In the song, Marley recalls the days, “when we used to sit/inna government yard in Trench Town/observing the hypocrites/as they would mingle with the good people we meet.” The song details the sentiment of hopelessness and despair shared by residents, which Marley and others defied, finding hope and solace in music.
The Trench Town Museum is a humble yet moving record of the history of the community and of its successful residents. Inside there are pieces of memorabilia, photos and life stories told by the people who shared the hard times with them.
Say Hello To:
Tarta, a longtime friend of Bob Marley and co-author of some of The Wailer’s hit songs, was the original resident of #8 First Street, and sometimes can be found inside the yard. Look out also for Stoneman and Blackstarliner who are regulars in the yard; they will be able to show you around or just sit and reason about life, love, celebrity and Rastafari.