Ian Jackson, 5th from left, backrow at a writer's workshop
Ian Jackson, 5th from left, backrow at a writer's workshop

Over 30 years ago a journey began to review the arts first in the New Chronicle, the Drum, Independent, and then THE SUN newspapers. It was born out of a desire to document, report on and promote the arts- fine arts, literary arts, performing arts and also provide commentary.

At that time, I was a practitioner, a leading poet, actor, self-published author, composer, and musician. I took it upon myself to attend and review plays staged at the Arawak House of Culture, Calypso shows, and all other song contests from DBS's Christmas Song Contest to DOMFESTA including dance performances, Queen Shows or Q95 Talent Search Show, and certainly the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) annual national spectacle. I highlighted all the movers and shakers- backstage and frontstage: authors, sculptors, painters, pannist, culinary artistes, contemporary bands, traditional cultural groups and personalities. I wrote about historical buildings, artifacts; I critiquing policy, literature or performances- anything positively, or negatively, affecting the arts.

Certainly, after three decades and over 1500 articles and being the longest-serving weekly columnist on island, this lifetime vocation, like all good things, must come to an end. Artistes, politicians, sportsmen, writers, in fact, everyone, must be able to recognize when the day to hang up your boots, or in that case your pen, has come to an end. For writers that day arrives when the passion wanes and weekly writing commitments start to become burdensome. You begin to question yourself as to whether you have not written or said this already in a previous article, or perhaps you may not be getting the desired effect or response from your writing.

When one is immersed in a journey over half his life, weaving his pen, drawing on the solitude of his mind, in good and bad times, it can be lonely. Granted, once every month or two someone stops you on the street to say, yes I agree, disagree or I enjoyed the article that you penned. This is what keeps you going. Lonely, particularly in a place like Dominica where only a few read but rather depend on hearsay and rumour. This is a country where very few bother about the research, data and views are not often based on substance or empirical evidence nor training. So, the writer can begin to question 'What am I doing this for? 'Why am I knocking at doors, making appointments to speak to artistes, reading their books even if you find it boring, just to respectfully give a fair assessment. Or why the late nights researching, writing, and rewriting like a sculptor, hoping to get it right.

Remember that it started as a passion for the arts until years down the line someone decides to provide a minimal stipend for effort. Sometimes, believe it or not, it requires taking your hard-earned money and attending an event or buying a CD to review for the public, attending a show or music event that you are not always a fan of, but you are duty-bound to the public. A duty, because before then there was a vacuum, as no one has made it their duty to review or promote artistes or artistic events consistently as all civilized societies do.

The aim is hopefully to improve what is presented to the general public and to give public commendation where necessary from the columnist viewpoint, of course. He or she cannot always be right but when a writer on the arts who is a tried and proven practitioner, being involved in cultural events for decades, they most likely are writing from an informed position. As time moves on, his views are credited and sought and probably the only things which inspires continuity.

Nonetheless. I want to encourage those pursuing journalism at the State College, to labour in the field albeit, as it stands, you're doing national service as a career field. The world has become visual and social media platforms, the response. However, nothing is more powerful than the written word because that is where it all begins, with the written word; one of the reasons why the Bible is incomparable. More than ever we need to document events, human interest stories and the arts which are of equal historical significance as that preserved by Dr. Lennox Honychurch.

I think I have a duty and responsibility to thank all those who kept me going, those here and overseas who encouraged or allowed me backstage to do interviews or honoured me with tickets, publications, and opportunities to fine-tune my craft. For me, the future may be blogs or some other medium. It has never been about fanfare, however; readers can look forward to a slice of my work via my book publication on the arts to be launched sometime in the summer of 2021. God bless.