The Run Free Jamaica team putting their hands together for their presentation on Independence Day

Shelly-Ann Thompson

Eleven young men from the tough turf of Parade Gardens in Downtown Kingston were set to blaze the Ranny Williams Entertainment Centre’s stage on Independence Day. For the first time, these men from the inner-city, as the country celebrates its 54th independence, will spilled their “truth” for all of Jamaica to witness.
The young men comprise the group Team Run Free Jamaica and have dubbed their performance, Run Free. The 35 minute long performance is a theatre production consisting of drama, comedy, dance and a mixture of martial arts. The story of their lives, trials and triumphs growing up in an age of unprecedented change and a place that’s often misunderstood.
The 11 young men – ranging in ages 12 to 25 – brought it to the stage particularly in tribute to two of their members who were killed.
Team member, Daniel McGillvary, said before the performance that Jamaicans should have expected to be blown away by their story.

“What am looking to put out? That we in the garrison not violent youth. That there are good youth in the garrison as well, and that it’s not only Gays who do arts, performance and choreography – straight men as well. Want to prove to them that we can put on a perfect show that when they go home, they think; those youths from Parade Gardens they touch my heart,” said McGillvary.

Project Manager, Lesley-Ann Welsh, said the men were thrilled to perform at the Independence Day Show that was organised by the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission.
“Run Free is a theatre production they’ve been working on for the past year. It was previewed in Jamaica in July 2015 and got good reviews.” she said.

Team Run Free Jamaica Independence Day performance was a precursor to their anticipated showing at the HomeAway Festival in Glasgow, Scotland in October. They were invited to perform at the Festival subsequent to a partnership the group formed with the British Council more than two years ago. The partnership with the British Council opened many opportunities such as the group being trained in Parkour. Parkour is a training discipline using movement such as jumping and climbing to overcome an obstacle positively. That too was incorporated in their Independence Day show.

“Going to the HomeAway Festival, as a requirement to that show, we had to perform at home first. So we reached out to JCDC and they agreed to the team performing at the Independence Village on Independence Day,” said Welsh.

Theatre Director at The National Theatre of Scotland, Simon Quinn, was on the island helping to perfect the group’s performance. Quinn said Jamaicans experienced an amazing performance of “truth, authenticity, some hard hitting facts, but most of all a recognition of themselves seeing Jamaica in a different light”.

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Group Run Free Jamaica before presenting with match US vs. France as background
Grupo de jóvenes sobre un escenario
Four young afro of the group Run Free Jamaica performing a choreography
End of the Team Run Free Jamaica group performance at the HomeAway Festival in Glasgow, Scotland
Dancer of the Team Run Free Jamaica in their Independence Day performance