Rock Hall Freedom Village will become a multifunctional cultural and heritage site and an exemplar of how community tourism ought to be done, Minister with responsibility for Culture Senator Dr Shantal Munro-Knight said Friday.
Speaking briefly to the media on a tour of the St Thomas site, she said stakeholders in several ministries were all keenly invested in developing the space for the arts, tourism opportunities and product development.
The park, which officially opened in August 2022, has seen several developments over the past several months during Phase 2 of construction, with a new amphitheatre, performance stage, and other fixtures being added to help transform the site into a large space for cultural and creative art productions.
“The building out of the Rock Hall Freedom Park for the Division of Culture is really about partnerships. We recognise that the vision for this cannot only lie with the Division of Culture. This is intended to be a multifunctional, national cultural heritage product and if we want to talk about national, it means that we must involve all of the critical players,” explained Dr Munro-Knight who was on the tour with culture, sports and tourism officials.
She also stressed there was a heavy emphasis on community involvement within the project, citing several changes that have been made to the project’s plans over the years, including the addition of a playpark, with basketball and road tennis facilities also being considered.
“One of the distinct things about the Rock Hall Freedom Park project has been the involvement of the Rock Hall community. I think that is critical because I have been continuing to say that, for us, the Rock Hall Freedom Village is really going to be an exemplar for how we do community tourism, and that very much there has been an investment in making sure that we continually bring the Rock Hall community along with us.
“All of the shops that we would have seen on site, we made sure that those belong to the people from within St Thomas, the artisans that would have worked here have come from within St Thomas and from within the community… we are going to be as responsive as we can.”
Minister of Tourism and International Transport Senator Lisa Cummins, who also participated in the tour, said the site will serve as an important addition to her ministry’s Tourism Product Development Accelerator programme.
“This is a perfect example of how we can treat to community tourism villages developing all across the country. Here, we have obviously the entertainment, the culture, the heritage, we are also looking to bring in the retail, we are looking to make sure there is product development,” she said.
“You will hear more from us in the coming weeks about our Tourism Product Development Accelerator programme which is going to be coming along to ensure that small businesses from our communities, artisans, and all kind of partners at the community level, have an opportunity to develop product for the purpose of selling it on a retail basis into the tourism industry, but also on an export basis into our major source markets through our tourism promotion offices overseas.”
Member of Parliament for St Thomas Cynthia Forde expressed pleasure at seeing the site finally being developed into the creative space she had always hoped for, and thanked the many entities involved for their hard work over the years.
“Because of the way it has been coordinated, the number of entities that have been engaged, the collaboration of the whole exercise, it brings an element of joy to my heart…,” she said.
Phase 2 to the Rock Hall Freedom Village will officially open on May 15, in the Season of Emancipation, with a heritage fair. (SB)