Parliament today approved a $3.4 million supplementary to this year’s Estimates, the bulk of which will go towards the renovation of Queen’s Park, ahead of Barbados’ hosting of the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA) in August.
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley explained during debate on the measure that $3.2 million of the total amount of $3,466,072 will go towards the Queen’s Park project, while the sum of $211,316.15 will be used to reimburse the Treasury for an advance related to the renovations.
“As members would know the Queen’s Park buildings constitute a historic part of our heritage. They are listed buildings within the World Heritage property, which go back as far as 1780 when the first permanent British Garrison was established in Barbados. The house was first rented for the Commander in Chief and over the years we have been aware of the use to which these buildings have been put . . .
“Unfortunately, over the years, due to a number of various occurrences . . in a nutshell the buildings were left in a state of disrepair over a period of time, and it is now left to the Government to ensure that a very prized part of our heritage is restored,” Lashley added.
He also reported on the findings of a physical inspection conducted by engineers and architects in June 2015.
“We found that the original structure remained intact and of course there was considerable scope for improvement without significantly impacting the original structure,” Lashley said.
However, he said one of the main areas of concern identified was the roof of the historic building, which suffered from major external extensive deterioration and termite infestation.
“The timber floors were also impacted to the stage, the terraced seating for the theatre, all were compromised because of the deterioration of the building, and of course there were several structural cracks in the building,” he added.
He also pointed out that the presence of vagrants on the premises had contributed to the eventual closure of the area, thus affecting the visual and performing arts.
However, with CARIFESTA due to be held here from August 17-27, Lashley said the repair work had been fast-tracked and was now 75 per cent complete.
“While several schools have been identified for hosting of various aspects of CARIFESTA, several specialty areas in terms of artistic performances, visual arts and exhibitions cannot be held at the schools and we would still need to have a facility such as the Queen’s Park gallery to be used for these events,” Lashley said.