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by Sir Henry Fraser
Please permit me space to respond to the report of a surprisingly naïve and rather sad negativity from the senate last week, albeit apparently from a single senator, on Government’s proposal to develop Glendairy Prison and vest it in the BTII to make this happen.
It is a pity that all senators had not read a column that followed the supportive debate in The House. I will summarise a few obvious and incontrovertible facts as to why Glendairy can and obviously should be developed as a Prison Museum and multi-faceted Entertainment Centre for the huge benefit of our nation.
1. There are 110 prison museums around the world, from Sing Sing and Alcatraz to Robben Island in South Africa and Kilmainham in Dublin, and wherever they are they attract the greatest number of visitors for that state or city. Kilmainham has 360 visitors a year with a queue an hour long when I visited!
2. Bajans want to see the magnificent buildings and the fascinating site and hear the story that is Glendairy. On the day of decommissioning, October 29th, 2016, five years ago, it captured the imagination of the media, and the tours given to nearly 500 visitors that day created widespread interest and curiosity.
3. Glendairy has five major buildings on a large, walled site, and the huge male block is by far the most magnificent building in Barbados. It has to be seen to be believed. And it includes the gallows, which people always love to see.
4. Development can be done by private developers at absolutely no cost to government, by putting it out to tender, for the employment of locals and the enjoyment of locals and visitors.
5. Contrary to popular belief, only about 8 per cent of the five buildings were gutted by fire – the central entrance to the magnificent male prison, a male block near the female prison (one fifth of that complex), and parts of the kitchen, bakery and mess hall.
6. Adaptive re-use would require cleaning up and making safe the male block and other parts which need repairs and retro-fitting and air conditioning of the entrance block for museum displays. Other areas can be retro-fitted for other uses – cafes, shops, etc.
7. A prison museum requires only modest structural, preservation work and expense, while varied entertainment projects can be provided with modest investment. Tableaux with dramatic, heinous crime scenes, stories of notorious criminals such as Winston Hall, and ghost tours are popular features.
A broader history of crime and punishment around the world, displays of the 1816 rebellion, 1876 Confederation Riots, 1937 “Riots”; displays of Nazi concentration camps; world-wide torture methods; the story of the redlegs; a model of a guillotine and of stocks would all be a continuing attraction to locals and visitors.
Other buildings can provide Conference Rooms, a Micro- Brewery, restaurants, bars, Food Court and Shops (gift, book, heritage, toy and craft shops and boutiques) and the expanded prisoners furniture workshop which Dodds is requesting.
And the extensive grounds can be well-equipped Children’s Playgrounds with a “petting” place for sheep and rabbits for example, for children to see real live animals which town children rarely see!
The key point is that Glendairy is ideal for a project that can be put out to tender and developed at absolutely no cost to government, but with great local employment and entrepreneurial potential.
Sir Henry Fraser is Professor Emertius, Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology, Immediate Past Dean, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. He is also an architecural historian, heritage consultant, writer, TV presenter, national orator and motivational speaker.