Parade, Kingston, Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica
The center of downtown Kingston is known as Parade, from the area’s early days as the drill center and parade grounds of the colonial militia. Long before Kingston took over from Spanish Town as the island’s capital city, Parade held significance as a center of activity. When Kingston became the capital of the nation, Parade became somewhat of a public arena used for just about any imaginable purpose; public hangings and floggings were held there, and the wealthy and fashionable would meet and greet in transit. The recently restored powder blue Ward Theatre flanks Parade on the north. To the east lies Coke Methodist Church, the first Methodist chapel to be built in Jamaica, and to the west is the Coronation Market, the largest and most frequented market in the island. To the south stands the beautiful and historic Kingston Parish Church, with its many interesting graves, tributes and gifts from the wealthy citizens of the city. For many years the church stood as the major landmark in Kingston, giving rise to the phrase, “born under the clock”, a reference to Kingstonians born within sight or earshot of the Kingston Parish Church bell.
In 1870, after the colonial militia and the troops moved their base northwards to Up Park Camp, city officials petitioned to create a public green space for the city of Kingston. Upon completion, in true colonial style, the British erected a statue of the monarch, Queen Victoria, dominating the park and facing down King Street to view her subjects. It is said that during the 1907 earthquake, the statue turned 180 degrees to face the hills, a sign some interpreted as a message that the city should expand northwards. The statue was later rotated, and in 1914, the garden was named Victoria Park in honor of the Queen. After Independence, the park was renamed in honor of St William Grant, the firebrand labor leader of the 1930s. The park still holds a sort of ceremonial appeal for Kingstonians, and once a year, the city’s Christmas tree is lighted with much pomp and ceremony.
Parade is a mecca for shoppers from all over the corporate area, and even many from out of town! Bargain hunters can find everything they need given the options. With the various arcades, the grand Coronation Market, the high street stores and the plethora of handcart and street vendors moving about, just about any wish can be granted, and any need fulfilled, with the exchange of a few dollars. If you don’t intend to buy and just want a sense of a Jamaican market, Coronation Market is a necessary stop. It is crowded, noisy, chaotic and filled with countless delicious scents and amusing verbal advertisements and exchanges.
The Ward Theatre is Jamaica’s largest and best-known performing arts theatre, and has a rich and fascinating history. That aside, the building itself is certainly worth a visit, but attending a performance there is clearly the best way to experience Jamaican theater, history and culture firsthand. Call ahead or stop by the box office to see what’s on. Usually the National Pantomime, an annual production of the Little Theatre Movement opens on December 26 and runs for a few months afterwards.