Jamaica’s Hope Gardens: “Where your childhood memories are”

For Jamaican writer Roland Watson-Grant, Kingston’s sprawling Hope Botanical Gardens are a place to unwind and revisit the pleasures of childhood

Photograph by Merrick Cousley

“I’ve always felt like Hope Gardens are where your childhood memories are when you can’t find them. I’m sure many Jamaicans feel that way. It’s always a happy kind of haunting when you go back there.

“To begin with, for me, it’s the backdrop to at least one cherished family photo. Never mind that I was probably five and wearing plaid in the picture — you don’t get to make fashion statements when you have three older brothers and too many hand-me-downs.

“The gardens are a lush public park and a perfect picnic area on green grass surrounded by tropical plants, some of the oldest trees in Jamaica, and lots of peace and quiet — apart from explosions of flowers everywhere. If you’re into blooms it’s a nursery for some the island’s most exotic types. Hope Zoo is in walking distance. Indigenous species as well as wildlife from all over the world can be seen there.

“And if you’re a party animal, Hope Gardens also have a nightlife. It’s a popular spot for premium parties, and after dark is just as magical.”

 

His day-job is in advertising, but Jamaican Roland Watson-Grant is much better known as a fiction writer, since the appearance of his debut novel Sketcher, about “a boy with a magicalogical perspective” (reviewed on page 36 of this issue). His journey to publication was one of those stories budding writers sigh over: after winning a British prize for short fiction in 2011, London publisher Alma Books offered him a book deal. Skid, a sequel to Sketcher, was published in 2014, and Watson-Grant soon found himself on “best of” and “essential read” lists in the US and Australia — with a devoted audience back at home.

 

Caribbean Airlines operates regular flights to Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston from destinations across the Caribbean, North America, and the United Kingdom