Queen’s Park House, long revered as the home of performing arts in Barbados, was officially reopened yesterday with a nod to its past and a glimpse into a promising future.
Following the unveiling of a plaque and ribbon cutting by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth Stephen Lashley, patrons at the event were treated to a cultural showcase.
The show started with actress Sarah Venable portraying Lady Gilbert Carter, who designed the park, and she led dignitaries through the newly restored art gallery and up to the fully modernised Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre.
Chief executive officer of the National Cultural Foundation, Cranston Browne, called the reopening “the restoration of a home for the arts in Barbados, which will create more job opportunities for cultural practitioners”.
He also argued there was a “renaissance of the performing arts” after CARIFESTA 1981 in Barbados, and admonished the entertainment fraternity “not to let the lessons of [the recently concluded] CARIFESTA XIII go to waste”.
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley revealed the project cost $6.9 million and “was aimed at retaining the originality of the building’s exterior, but upgrading the interior to a modern world-class facility”.
“We now have a state-of-the-art theatre, an electronic surveillance system, an elevator for the first time, fire suppression devices, and the building is now fully accessible to the disabled,” the Minister noted.
Lashley also revealed additional plans for Queen’s Park, including “restoration of the restaurant, which will serve as a rehearsal facility, and a home for the National Youth Orchestra”.
According to the Minister, consideration was being given to the creation of a Wall of Fame to pay tribute to the island’s cultural icons.
The reopening ceremony also featured videos highlighting shows staged in Queen’s Park House by the island’s leading artistes.
The Pinelands Creative Workshop was among the performers at the re-opening ceremony and the group paid tribute to the Barbados Landship. They were followed by a performance by NIFCA award winning dancers Aisha Comissiong and Keisha Amory.
Yolanda Holder and Jennifer Walker brought back memories of the late Jeanette Layne-Clark’s Pampalam, as they portrayed the characters Lottie and Mabel made famous by Dame Maizie Barker-Welch and Marvo Manning.
The Laff it Off cast paid tribute to stalwarts of the local production, with Ishiaka McNeil acknowledging the work of actor and producer Wendell Smith in his rendition of the song Was I Wrong.
The entertainment package ended with a mesmerizing performance by the Marlon Legall Voice Project, who sang Riots in de Land, Man Down and an African song entitled One By One in their unique style.