Over the holidays, I found myself in many conversations about what we euphemistically call night noise in Jamaica. I’ll get it out of the way immediately – yes, the discussants were uptowners. Often perennials. They located themselves in proximity to the source of the noise (to them)/the music (to promoters and patrons). Hope Gardens. Barbican Square. Red Hiils Road. 100. Ranny Williams Centre. Mas Camp. Devon House. Barbican Beach. Bob Marley Museum. Cru. Unknown sources. Churches. House parties. They compared the egregiousness of their experiences – ours STARTS at 2am. Ours goes on until sunrise. Ours is an all day thing, even on Sundays. Often I was pulled into these occasions for venting by strangers in a public place – the supermarket, the farmers’ market, the pharmacy, a craft fair.
I stand on the side of peace and quiet, because we live close to several of those places. We left our previous home because of noise.
And here’s the problem: No matter how reasonable the party promoters. how infrequent their events, how slavishly the law about lock off times is adhered to (which it is NOT), how polite their notice to neighbours – there is a cumulative impact of noise at night in Kingston that is unacceptable. Today might be Ranny Williams, tomorrow Barbican Square. The next day Devon House. Hope Gardens the day after that. Where we now live, we can often go to sleep with the noise sufficiently muffled by distance but close to 4am, perhaps when the breeze changes, or perhaps just when a DJ gets hold of the mic, the music blasts us awake. Should we call the police? We have on occasion – and we know the result. IF the station has a vehicle, IF we can say with certainty the source of the noise, IF the event does not have a permit, the police will visit and the volume will be reduced for about half an hour but no more. If we don’t know the source, then what? Do we dress and drive around looking for it?
The Mayor of Kingston, His Worship, Mayor Delroy Williams (you can follow him @MayorWilliamsJA on Twitter) has brought much needed energy to his job, and on December 28th he tweeted: “Kingston earned in excess of 28M from Entertainment Permits alone in 2016. We have surpassed the figure earned in Dec 2016 by 12% so far this December.” We must support #Entertainment #NightEconomy #NightLife
“Not if it disturbs residents,” responded Yamfoot.
“Noise disturbs residents,” said the Mayor. “Not entertainment.”
This, it seems to me, is the crux of the matter. For some, perhaps for most, the music from formal and informal venues is entertainment, not noise. Economic activity. Part of a vibrant culture. Kingston has been declared a Creative City of Music by UNESCO – you people who want to sleep need to get on board. This is who we are. Night people. And we want our music LOUD.
But adequate rest is vital for the human body and lack of sleep causes accidents on the road and at work, affects the ability of children to learn and increases the risks of a range of health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, depression, forgetfulness and weight gain. And this one: Diminished sex drive – surely that should be of concern? In short, lack of sleep is a public health issue.
It’s a problem of fairness too. Of respect. Of understanding that my right to music should not affect my neighbour’s right to sleep. It’s a lack of sensible city planning – when permission is given for bars and clubs with outdoor spaces to operate in the middle of residential areas. “Another Resident Without Sleep” pointed out in a letter to the Jamaica Observer that noise from Devon House affects the sick and dying at Andrews Memorial Hospital across the road.
There’s a solution, of course: indoor venues. But who will fund? What will that do to community type events and the price of tickets? Should there be restrictions on the number of party promoters, like taxi operators in big cities, because there’s a recognition that any geographical area can take only so many loud events?
I reckon I was kept awake by entertainment for 15 nights in December and no single venue was the source. That’s too much to ask anyone to accept as being merely #NightLife.