Ashe comes of age

Observer senior reporter

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

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PERFORMING arts troupe Ashe is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

The company — started by Paulette Bellamy and Joseph Robinson — has endured the growing pains and carved out a niche for itself, specialising in what it calls 'edutainment', which uses the performing arts as a conduit to impart knowledge and training on some serious social issues.

Today, the company is run by two of its founding members — Conroy Wilson, who serves as executive director; and artistic director Michael Holgate. Both are pleased with where the company is now and look forward to continue the tradition of its founders while taking the company into a new era.

“It has not been easy. For a few years we struggled to have Jamaica know who we were as a company, especially after Joe (Robinson) died. But what a lot of people didn't realise is that he not only invested in the artistic and creative side of the Ashe, but he also invested in people. So we were equipped to carry onwithout him, but that transition was not easy,” Wilson told the Jamaica Observer.

Robinson's passing was compounded by the fact that the company lost its home base which was located on Waterloo Road in St Andrew, as the property was being sold and they could not afford to buy. With no home, the troupe became somewhat low-keyed and was not as prominent. So Wilson and Holgate had to take a long, hard look at the operations of the company.

“In 2009 we really had to look at what we were doing and decide what was Ashe. We quickly realised we had to focus on our niche — edutainment. So we focussed on providing the services which has kept us over the years. This includes providing training for persons connected primarily with the ministries of education and health. We also worked with communities and other interest groups looking at issues such as youth empowerment,” Wilson stated.

Later today, Ashe will launch a year-long slate of activities to commemorate its silver anniversary. Wilson noted that activities will include a church service, an initiative under which the company will give 25 free performances across the county to deserving organisations and groups. The company's current home will be renamed during the course of the year in honour of their founders. An edutainment festival is to be staged during Child Month.

The year's events will culminate with with an honours event on December 22, at which past and present members of the troupe will be recognised.

“The past 25 years have not been easy, but we are beginning to take things on that much larger scale. We now have our own self-contained centre, we have built that model of edutainment, now we are looking to strengthen the entertainment side of Ashe so we can spread our wings and become international,” Wilson added.

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