It was clear in Anthony ‘Tony’ Laing’s mind what his mission was on earth, being a vanguard of Jamaica’s culture and heritage. As a cultural activist, broadcaster, musicologist and entertainment consultant, he devoted his life to the advancing of a transformed culture and engaged the public on matters of cultural significance for national development. His illustrious career in music can be traced to his father Densil Laing who was a musician, of whom he always referred with great pride and admiration. His passion for music fuelled his strident advocacy for the Jamaica Copyright Act to help develop a proper copyright system to benefit especially musicians. This Act was enacted in 1993 which brought him much joy, mission accomplished.
The Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) pays tribute to this great man and an extraordinary former employee who was a pioneer in executing his roles and responsibilities. He joined the Commission on January 16, 1974 and spent 22 years with intermitting periods of break building cultural excellence, bolstering positive values and attitudes to build patriotism and civic pride. On October 1, 1996, he exited the Commission, but remained committed to the Development of the Festival of the Arts.
A no-nonsense employee during his tenure, he fervently demonstrated excellence, passion and professionalism that fueled his unquenchable pursuit for distinction. To this end, the Commission has benefited from his sterling contributions, a heritage bequeathed that continues to build the JCDC brand.
He left an indelible mark of cultural excellence which has aided significantly the development of the National Festival of the Arts programme and the staging of commemorative events including Independence celebrations. As the Special Projects Coordinator responsible for staging national events, he contributed to many outstanding programmes that were signatures of excellence. These included: Grand Gala, Independence Street Dance, Festival Splash, Pickney Sinting, Mello-Go Roun’, the now Miss Jamaica Festival Queen Competition and a host of many other programmes. Additionally, it is said that he designed and conceptualized the more modern Independence Floats and coordinated the Independence Float Parade we know today.
He used his wealth of knowledge and expertise to raft a series of plans that led to the development and revitalization of the Festival Song Competition which he coordinated for many years.
The Pop and Variety Show genesis in Jamaica is accredited to his conceptualization and creative prowess which paved the way for the unraveling of many of today’s talent development competitions now evident on the cultural landscape of Jamaica. We remember his legendary contribution in coordinating the civic ceremony for the first black sheriff of Nottingham in England who came to Jamaica. This was one of many such significant national events that he led.
He always shared with people the power of striving to see the best in Jamaica and Jamaicans and encouraged the youth to tap into their potential, to foster nation building and sustainability. Throughout his tenure at the Commission, he consistently demonstrated this passionate proclivity. Truly this epitomizes his inner philosophy that he projected and showed profoundly: “Jamaica mi bawn ya”.
His cultural legacy to nation building was indeed monumental. A cultural bastion, he was truly a remarkable Jamaican, a humanitarian who loved and cared for the people of his country especially the beautiful Jamaican women and what they stood for.
He used his cultural life and experiences to effect positive changes. A beacon of cultural hope his light shines like a candle in the wind. There can be no other to take his place as he was an outspoken and unique character whose charisma, charm and radiant smile will forever be remembered in Jamaica’s greatness. As he would always say: “2.5 million tanks”, an appreciation of the Jamaican spirit for being the wind beneath his wings, a fighter and overcomer. “Love and Thanks!”