Major changes are coming to the showpiece of national independence celebrations as the annual parade is to move from the traditional Garrison Savannah site to Kensington Oval.
The announcement came today from Minister of Health Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic, who has been charged with chairing the planning of the 52nd Independence Parade, at a press launch held at St Ann’s Fort, Garrison.
“The Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister the Honourable Mia Mottley would have made a decision a few weeks ago that on the 30th November, Independence Day that we would have a few changes to the way we celebrate independence day itself and that whatever we came up with had to include greater participation by Barbadians from all walks of life,” Bostic said, adding that the main focus of the Government this year was to have the youth actively involved in the independence celebrations.
“Equally as important was that the Prime Minister and Cabinet determined that we need to have our young people, especially our school children, more heavily involved in occasions of national significance – Independence being one,” he said. He added that as chair of the inter-ministerial planning committee, he was challenged with putting together a programme that was tasteful but within current economic restraints.
“This year we are planning to do something that is tasteful, something that will have an impact on our nation, something that will bring the nation together, something that will give our young people something to aspire to and also taking into account that we are still under a BERT programme and that whatever we do we must be cognizant of the economic situation that exists in our country,” Bostic said.
While the site of the Independence parade has been shifted from time to time over to inclement weather, the shift to Cricket’s Mecca is a significant shift from the site on which the Union Jack was lowered for the final time and replaced with the Broken Trident on a damp November night in 1966.
As Government plans to involve more youth in events of national significance, Bostic said some 5,000 school children will be invited to attend the parade.
“We determined that we would invite the attendance of about 5,000 students across the primary and secondary schools in Barbados and this for us is an exciting thing,” Bostic said, adding that the Prime Minister will be investing Head Boys and Head Girls with a leadership badge.
“We will create a leadership programme which will be centered around the Head Boy and Head Girl from each school and they will have some leadership badges placed on them on Independence Day.”
In another departure from tradition, the Prime Minister’s Independence Message is to be delivered from Heroes Square, marking the first time that the nation’s political leader will speak during the historic Independence Parade.
Another first, Bostic said, will be a performance from cultural icon Edwin Yearwood as well as a procession through the streets of Bridgetown entitled, We Barbados.
“We Barbados will have a cultural component and a sports component. It will also include and involve those persons who would not have been Barbadians by birth but certainly had the pleasure of calling Barbados their home,” he said, adding that members of the disabled community, community groups, the Muslim faith, and national associations of St Vincent, St Lucia, Haiti and Guyana have been specially invited to attend the proceedings.
In another change the march from Kensington Oval through Bridgetown will see the Girl Guides take the lead in celebration of their centennial anniversary and the Church of God, which is also marking its centennial, is to lead the recitation of the National Pledge.
Bostic also told the media that as the Government is trying to cut the cost of production of the 52nd Independence celebrations, it is calling on Barbadians to assist or contribute to the celebrations.
“We are asking Barbadians, those who have buses or coaches, those who can contribute in any ways to the success of this event without having to increase the cost of production,” Bostic said.
Chief of Staff Barbados Defence Force Colonel Glyne Grannum said that another change for this year’s Independence Parade is that the Prime Minister of Barbados will be receiving the official salute at Heroes Square instead of outside Government Headquarters.
“The standard elements that Barbados has grown to appreciate, love and celebrate at Independence are all retained with the parade,” he said.
Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports John King said that this year that sporting and cultural icons will be a part of the procession through The City.
“You will see from cricket legends [and] many other disciplines who would have done very well representing their country. You are going to see the cultural ambassadors official and unofficial ones expressing themselves,” said King, stressing that Barbadians “from all walks of life” will become immersed in the official independence celebrations.
“This is going to be a huge message to the rest of the world that says Barbados is back and Barbados is a strong united society that is looking to move forward,” the calypsonian-turned-minister said.
Senior Superintendent Bruce Rowe said that the army and police will be partnering to ensure the safety of all parade participants and civilians.
“I want to ensure you that our security plans include the security of the Oval, along the route and security of the children and all Barbadians that will be at that parade.” Rowe said.
Box offices will soon be announced to provide tickets to members of the public wishing to obtain a vantage point at Kensington Oval to witness the spectacle.