Plans are in motion for the establishment of a museum in honour of Gregory Isaacs before year-end. The announcement was made by the Gregory Isaacs Foundation at yesterday’s unveiling of a Blue Plaque at 15 Sunrise Crescent in St Andrew, former home of the late singer.
Dubbed the Cool Ruler, Isaacs is known for songs including Night Nurse, Number One, Tune In, Hard Drugs and Red Rose for Gregory. He died of lung cancer on October 25, 2010 in England. He was 59.
The Blue Plaque is a British designation marking the place of residence of a person of note, particularly those who have contributed to the arts and culture. Isaacs is the first Jamaican artiste to have a Blue Plaque in two cities, Kingston and London, where he had homes. However, he is not the only Jamaican artiste to receive the honour; he follows in the footsteps of Bob Marley and Dennis Brown whose London homes have been recognised.
Chairman of the foundation, Colin Leslie, said more plans are in place to recognise Isaacs’ legacy.
“The plan is to use this house, or at least a part of it, for a museum in a bid to preserve the work of Gregory. We are looking at about October to get everything going. We will also be continuing the charity work which Gregory started. He was very close to the Walker’s Place of Safety, which suffered from a fire a few weeks ago. At the fund-raising concert Red Rose for Gregory, which is set for February 14, we are asking patrons to come with donations of items of clothing, books, tinned foods and money towards the home which was one of Gregory’s favourite charities,” Leslie said.
“Also high on the agenda of the foundation is our contribution to Patricia House and the work that they do there for substance abusers, which was also close to Gregory, and we the foundation want to continue along that line,” he added.
Speaking at the unveiling, British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad noted that the music of the man justifies the award of a Blue Plaque.
“As part of my job, I am invited to many occasions and, truth be known, many times I am not really sure why I am there. What am I supposed to say? And will anybody take notice of what I have to say? But this time is different.
“The Blue Plaque is not readily given away. The people who manage them are very choosy,” he noted.
“But it’s not that they just pick angels. They pick people who are real, and a creative artiste sings and writes about things that are real. And if everything was perfect and they were perfect, there would be nothing to write about. Those struggles, those questions, those things that drive you to something else are things that Gregory Isaacs sang about. That Blue Plaque in London says something else too. He may be born of your soil here in Jamaica, he may have lived in this very house but he is ours too. And that is why his name will forever be remembered in a building in London, because he too lived there.”
Ahman called for greater collaboration between creatives in Jamaica and the UK.
“What we did in Britain was help take reggae from out of here to the rest of the world. The second home of reggae is Great Britain. But somehow, along the way, people have lost their way. People are imitating the original reggae and making money out of it without any of it coming back here to Jamaica,” he said
“There are opportunities to recapture that, take new singers, work with us. Together, let us bring the strength of what we have — the raw talent here and the creativity in the UK.”
The occasion saw several members of the entertainment fraternity in attendance. They included Karen Smith, Fab Five’s Frankie Campbell, percussionist Bongo Herman, music insider Copeland Forbes, Freddie McGregor and Desi Young.