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Speightstown folk told renewal must be community effort

by Barbados Today
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Speightstown has great potential to become a heritage, cultural and artistic hub, residents have said, but any efforts to accomplish this must begin at the community level.

This was the consensus as the second Ideas Forum held at the Alexandra School in the heart of the northern town.

Among the suggestions – the former Alma Parris Secondary School compound could be used as a centre of excellence for the arts. MP for St Peter Colin Jordan proposed the idea.

He said: “There is potential for using that school as a centre of excellence in some area, and since St Peter is being seen as a place for heritage, culture and the arts, we could use it for the arts primarily.

“We need to bring activity back to Speightstown and this would help accomplish that, if we have a campus of 200 students in Speightstown for three terms then we will have a lot of activity once again.”

Actress Janine White agreed, saying: “Having an area where children can do more than just composition, arithmetic and English and where they can hone their creativity is a great idea, and having the school up and running will bring vendors back, which will generate business.”

Janine White

She also suggested that a festival along the lines of those already held in Oistins and Holetown could be established in Speightstown, but before embarking on any major plans, it was important to get buy-in from all the communities within the parish.

Calypsonian Stiffy, real name Shane Atkinson, underscored the importance of young people having a place to develop their artistic talents, noting that he got involved in the sector at a young age through the Rose Hill Tuk Band and the Barbados Landship.

He said: “I learned a lot of fundamentals from school, but I became involved in the Landship and this led me all over Barbados meeting people and learning lots of stuff, so I would back a school where this is done 110 per cent, as we need more people with creative minds and imagination to do the creative things, we need to grow, invent, create and share.

“At first I thought the Landship was just wukking up; that was the exciting part of it, but when you go through Landship stages you realise every dance is different, every sailor has a different role, and the ship is like a family.

Shane ‘Stiffy’ Atkinson

“If you understand it to that level, then you will understand it heritage wise.”

Architect and owner of St Nicholas Abbey Larry Warren along with Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw agreed that visitors look for experiences when they visit countries now and any future development of Speightstown should take that into consideration.

Warren said: “One of the things that struck me about Speightstown when I first moved into the area 30 years ago was that it was a market town, Bridgetown is not like that anymore.

“It is still like that, so when we consider heritage tourism in Speightstown we cannot lose track of these things as it will make the experience more meaningful.

“We also need a sustained effort to get this going, because I have seen many committees formed to look into revitalising Speightstown and they always lose momentum.”

Larry Warren

Bradshaw said: “We have to start by getting people to appreciate their history and why these things are important, and to understand that visitors are looking for experiences, whether it is tours highlighting the architecture, our nightlife, music or cultural activities.

“Unless we appreciate our history, we cannot market ourselves effectively to the rest of the world.”

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