Fleet Street, Kingston

Fleet Street is the pearl of Downtown Kingston which breaks down barriers and breathes hope into disadvantaged communities. Downtown is a bustling metropolis featuring the headquarters of leading Jamaican businesses, stores, government offices and the House of Parliament. However, for my entire life I’ve heard my mother say she doesn’t go downtown if she doesn’t absolutely have to and when she did, she rarely took me along. Why? Downtown has been plagued for decades with many socio-economic issues, troubled inner-city communities and now as a result harbours notorious gangs and garrisons which led to the city once being labeled as the murder capital of the world. Political corruption has severed communities, led to the stark increase in crime and now our leaders grapple with reining in the monster which they have created. Nonetheless, as we say in Jamaica “wah nuh dead nuh call ih duppy” (literally translated: if it’s not dead, don’t call it a ghost). And that’s what Downtown Kingston is– a reawakening city and perhaps the most colourful part of that renaissance is located on Fleet Street.

fleet street downtown kingston
Fleet Street, Downtown Kingston

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The Success Story Behind Fleet Street

Paint Jamaica is the unique social intervention project behind Fleet Street’s renaissance. Launched by Marianna Farag, a French visitor to Jamaica, she was taken aback by the state of Parade Gardens in Downtown when she visited and wanted to help in some way. She realized that the foresaken dilapidated buildings and zinc fences contributed immensely to the community’s depressed psyche, in particular that of its youth. This inspired her to partner with a group of Jamaican artists in July 2014 for a 10-day project to beautify the walls of a large abandoned warehouse on Fleet Street with bold giant murals. This runs deeper than a renovation exercise as the murals were aimed at fostering a sense of pride in the residents for their community, instilling an appreciation of art and providing an outlet for creative expression. The mere act of uplifting the visual landscape has helped to reduce crime and littering. Also, the murals have brought with them an unforseen benefit. Locals and foreigners alike who would never have dreamt of setting foot in the wrong side of town are now piling in daily to take selfies and host photo shoots next to the street art for the ‘Gram. With that, the community has received more recognition and support from affluent individuals and companies for its development projects.

eat off the land at fleet street
Life Yard Restaurant’s sustainable farm

Unlike most inner city social intervention projects, this one is 100% community based so it has been well-received by residents. Paint Jamaica paved the way for spinoff project Plant Jamaica, launched by a local volunteer Andrew Bruce.  Plant Jamaica aims to create sustainable farms in small inner city communities with the aid of farmers, artists and educators. The project debuted at Life Yard Restaurant with the Jamaican adage “Eat what you grow, grow what you eat” and is located directly across from where Paint Jamaica was born. Life Yard serves food straight from organic farm to table, employs community residents and capitalizes on the area’s increased patronage. To date they have welcomed several thousand international tourists from over 45 countries.


Exploring & Dining at Life Yard

life yard on fleet street
“Waving the banner red, green & gold” -Chronixx
Life Yard Bar
The Life Yard Bar

I deliberately timed my visit around lunch hour so I could support Life Yard, the vegan restaurant located at 44 Fleet Street. The movement is run by a group of 15 Rasta men all under age 40 and today I found I-Shango, Kabukie and another founder whose name eludes me. They’re open Mondays to Fridays from about 10am – 5pm for breakfast and lunch but are closed on Saturdays for sabbath. Regardless, curious onlookers are still welcome to come and observe Nyabinghi worship. The group uses their proceeds for various community outreach programmes such as teaching skills to the adults that can be used to earn a living and hosting Sunday movie nights and Saturday morning art classes for the children. My friends, brother and I arrived a little after 1pm and were warmly welcomed inside.

Life Yard Restaurant
We closed the door so you can see the whole thing but it will be open, inviting you in like this:
doors open at life yard

We requested lunch and realized then that no fixed menu exists. They eat what they grow rather literally (except the rice 😅) so the daily menu will vary depending on what’s available. Lunch today was a made-to-order ital stew consisting of navy beans, pumpkin, corn, onion and spices. Ital (meaning vital) is a Rastafarian word for a style of cooking with absolutely no added sodium and is often vegan but sometimes vegetarian. I’ve always wanted to cook that way at home but my mother, like most other Jamaicans, won’t allow it. Jamaicans typically love salt and it’s killing us rather literally, but that’s for a separate talk. Anyway, I got my first taste of lunch with absolutely no salt and I LOVED IT! I didn’t even miss the salt because my food was so well seasoned with thyme, parsley and other spices my taste buds couldn’t quite discern and I was too busy enjoying my meal to ask.

Ital stew at Life Yard
Ital stew with seasoned rice and salad
unique seating at Life Yard
Creativity is everywhere. Just look at their seats!

Their prices are affordable with my delicious lunch costing only JM$400. Since their meals are done-to-order, you’ll have about a 45-minute wait unless of course you pre-order by calling. I’d tried doing that but unfortunately their current number listed online is not working– an issue they assured me will be rectified soon. Nonetheless, I was well entertained during that time by an I-Shango-led tour through their farm, a space which was larger and greener than I’d expected and has actually existed for 15+ years. Plant Jamaica is only a more recent organized venture and has been bringing the Yard publicity for the past 3 years. They grow many crops including breadfruit, otaheite apples, bananas, papaya, mangoes, culinary and medicinal herbs. The rest of time was spent holding a reasoning— just talking about life in general and relaxing in the astonishingly tranquil environment while soothing reggae tunes permeated the air.

life yard farm
If the definition of peace had a picture

A Kaleidoscope of Colour on Fleet Street

Originally, I came mainly with the intention to admire the murals but they made me forget all about that until it was time to leave. Thus, I didn’t get to take in the street art as slowly and thoroughly as I’d wanted because I’m sure there are plenty murals I missed. This only means I must return another day. 🤗 Nonetheless, let’s enjoy some larger-than-life Fleet street-art:

larger than life street art
holding hands at fleet street
more murals-fleet street
more from fleet street, downtown kingston
empty warehouse-fleet street
beauty on fleet street
fleet street views
murals-fleet street

How to Find Fleet Street

If you’re using the bus, take a JUTC route 83 from Half-Way-Tree or a 77 from Papine. Unfortunately, you’ll have about 5-10 minutes of walking to do from the closest bus stop which is the first one on East Queen’s Street. Taking any other bus will give you a longer walk from Parade, Downtown. There are taxis too– public route taxis or privately chartered– and organized company tours for a bit more money. If you’re driving, Google Maps has accurate driving directions. There’s no official parking but your car will be safe on the lay-by in front of Life Yard. Restrooms are available. A word of caution though, Parade Gardens isn’t fully out of the woods yet. Headlines like this June shooting still make news occasionally, however, I felt 100% safe here today.

Wrap Up

I only hope Marianna is aware of how her simple selfless idea to beautify a neighbourhood has become something so much larger and deeper and powerful than that. I likely would never have ventured onto Fleet Street had it not been for her project although many foreigners seem to do it quite carefreely, likely because they don’t grow up with the stereotyping pre-conceived notions with which many Jamaicans are raised (myself included) as my new friends & I discussed. And oh, about Marianna? Following several visits to Jamaica in the last two years, she quit her job and moved to Kingston. The enormous impact of Paint Jamaica, the friends she made and the community that welcomed her was enough to convince her of starting a new life here.

I rate the Fleet Street experience 5 stars, ☆☆☆☆☆. Find out more about Life Yard through their new website and social media pages (Instagram & Facebook). Also, check out some of the music videos shot here e.g. Sara Lugo and Protoje’s  “Really Like You” and Agent Sasco’s “Winning Right Now.”

Continue to paint down Babylon Jamaica.

‘Til next time.✌

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Rochelle | Adventuresfromelle

Adventures from Elle is a travel blog for locals & visitors who want to experience the best of Jamaica, one adventure at a time. The blog is curated by Rochelle Knight, a junior resident (M.D.) in internal medicine and published author. She began the blog in 2016 as a medical student & wants to see the world, starting with her home country. Purchase her book 'SIGHTSEE JAMAICA' on Amazon and join her in Jamaica!

13 thoughts on “Fleet Street, Kingston

  1. This is the essence of Jamaica that I love to see people read, write and speak about and you captured Fleet Street’s essence extremely well. I would love to visit Fleet Street very soon. Thank you for sharing such a bright view of Jamaica. I only hope this type of beautification can and will continue to spread throughout the island. There are many communities in Jamaica where this will have a tremendous impact.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey sis!!!! Your blog literally made my day. I was looking for places to go that would make my trip authentic with my sis but we had a challlenge. I emailed “LIFE YARD” and hope to get confirmation to do a workshop with the youth. Would love to ask about the safety of going with my sis to trench town on our own? I really trust that we will be safe since we are black women and love our people but I don’t want to be too naive.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey!! That’s awesome to hear, thank you and thanks for reaching out! 🙂 Life Yard is definitely a good place to volunteer. I’m not sure how quickly they reply to emails but if a day or 2 passes without reply, send them a Facebook message instead. They’re super-responsive to that.

      If volunteering there doesn’t work out, the Trench Town Reading Centre is another option too. They’re located within stones-throw from the culture yard so it’s a good way to kill 2 birds with 1 stone. In regards to safety: Trench Town has really improved over the years. Currently no active community tensions are there so in a pair, walking, taking the bus or a taxi should be fine. However, I won’t pretty it up. Jamaican men can be very persistent and intimidating in the way they approach attractive women and you’ll likely find lots of men chilling on the streets in these communities. Thus, taking a taxi directly to there is wiser albeit a bit more expensive. I’d recommend leaving your jewelry at home too and only carrying as much cash as you’ll need. Otherwise, just use your usual street smarts. Don’t do what you wouldn’t do at home here like smoke weed unless it’s your thing. But don’t be intimidated by our ghettoes. 🙂 You’ll feel welcome there and get a true picture of life in Jamaica for many. Enjoy Kingston and take care! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Ahhhh yes. Thank you sis!! You’re a gem! Street smarts is literally all we need and we will be ok I pray. Well I do f mean to be too forward but I’m a black woman who is confident so I’m wondering what your schedule will be like next week? Or the week after!? Would love to scatta the town with you since you’re so well versed

      Liked by 2 people

    3. I can understand that should is first.if you need a treat let us know we’d love to link up we’ll be there 4/2 thru 4/10 I appreciate all that you ve shared. Continue to expand our understandijgs of Jamaica!!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I know right! I love that passion. I hope they’re able to continue and even eventually expand the work they’re doing for the community and Downtown at large. They say true change starts from within. No outside help can do for Parade Gdns what these youth are doing for themselves so I really plan to become a regular, and they’re so affordable too! 💕 we may finally cross paths there haha.

      Liked by 2 people

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