For 38 years he has been at it. And Richard Stoute sincerely hopes that the Teen Talent competition will continue to thrive, long after he is gone.
The founder of the popular competition told Bajan Vibes he was moved to start the show after he realized there was a void in the entertainment industry in Barbados – a void he believes still exists today.
“In 1977, I was given the opportunity to be the entertainment coordinator of the then Barbados Holiday Inn and it was my job to produce entertainment that made a difference. I had to set up the programmes that brought a different type of programming in the hotels and I had two things in mind – the youth and how to encourage Barbadian people to come into the hotel setting, because in those days it was felt that Barbadians were not allowed to go into the hotel and that it was only for tourists.
“I thought introducing a programme like the Teen Talent competition would enable parents, families to come on Sundays and see their offspring performing in a tourist environment. What it did was to bring the local people closer to our visitors. I always felt that one day the planes would stop coming and we would probably have to look at the local people for support in the hotel sector and that’s what is happening now. So I thought that it was something that should be introduced in all the hotels in Barbados,” Stoute said.
The veteran entertainer says he believes that it has aided Barbados’ entertainment sphere.
“I have no regrets because 99 per cent of the entertainment now in Barbados has come through the Richard Stoute Teen Talent programme and that’s exactly what I set out to do . . . Look at all the big names in entertainment in Barbados today and you can say that’s where they got their start.
“What is noticeable about that is that when I first started I was encouraging them to sing popular music. But if you look at the calypso arena today . . . Edwin Yearwood, Alison Hinds, Adrian Clarke, Rupee, Anderson Armstrong who came into the show singing ballads are all now singing a genre of music that fits into our cultural development. Calypso is what they are concentrating on and they have given quite a lot to the Crop Over festivities. When we had 16 people in the [Pic-O-De-Crop] semifinals recently, eight of them emerged from the Teen Talent Competition. It goes on and on . . . much more entertainers now would have passed through the Teen Talent Competition. I’m proud to see that I have been able to give Barbados an entertainment sphere that would last for another 20 to 25 years.”
Stoute added that he believed the talent now is as good as it was then. In fact, he says Barbados has some of the best singers you can find but they are not being exposed to the world.
“The talent is phenomenal, I think it’s really great. I believe that we have some of the best singers in the world but what is sad, though, you have to be in the right place at the right time. I think that the world is looking for another Rihanna. But how can we have another if we don’t get the exposure for them. Every year we have the Crop Over festivities here and the best talent scouts come down from all over the world to Barbados and they see only the calypso genre people. They are not looking for a calypsonian to be our next . . . They are really looking for someone like her, with her look, and her voice and her ability to make it happen. But lo and behold they don’t ever get to see any of my young people perform. By the time I am ready to start Teen Talent, they have gone back to their respective places with their cameras filled with only the calypso genre. It would be nice if the NCF could arrange for me to have a showcase of the best talent of that particular year, who can be seen by these people who can help them to go to another level.”
Stoute says he will continue to do what he loves, which is giving the young people an opportunity to get their names out there.
“I would love to see this continue. It’s very good for young people and nothing makes me happier than to see young people being happy. We have to give every opportunity to make them feel a part of life because, in general, all young people need to know that they are loved by somebody. If they know somebody loves and cares for them they behave; at the same time, if you make them feel insignificant, that’s when you have trouble.”
Speaking to Bajan Vibes during an interview at his Black Rock St Michael home, Stoute said he would also like some of the entertainers who “have made a name for themselves in the industry” to come together to give back to the show, especially after he is no longer around.
“It would be nice if right now they can form a Richard Stoute Fund and they be the bosses of it. They set up programmes where they can raise funds and give the funds to the competition, they write the cheques to help pay for some of the things happening in the competition, and when I die they can take over [the competition] and what they will be doing is giving back to the forum in which they started,” he suggested.
“You should always look at how you can give back to something that has given to you . . . I would like to go to my resting place knowing that what I started 38 years ago is
He says that, over the years, it has been hard financially to keep the competition going, but out of his love for entertainment and young people, he refused to give up.
“I want to thank the Barbados Government for coming on board and giving good support financially over the last four years. It was a good gesture on their part . . . If a country is to survive, the young people need to be given every opportunity to function and don’t only look at them when they do bad things and feature them in the media and make them look as though they are the worst people in the world. We have to look at our young people and see how we can further encourage them to be better people.
“Before that, it wasn’t easy. I had to be out there really scouting around, begging alms, more or less, to keep the show on the road. I would always remember people like Roberts Manufacturing who have been with me now for the past 13 years. I also want to say thanks to the people at Clement Payne Cultural Centre. David [Comissiong] has played a pivotal role in helping me to develop these young people. He opened his doors when I couldn’t find a venue for the workshops to work with them. He gave me those keys free of cost and I give thanks to him for understanding what I was trying to do and he felt that it was very important. Before that they were people like Sir Wes Hall who was with Banks Breweries at the time, he was the first person to give me trophies to give away and I thank him for understanding where I was going with that from the earlier days. Also the BCC [Barbados Community College] which gives scholarships to the kids to help their education. They helped me to fight the hard times and the bad times.”