T&T Cultural Village Opens in London
The conceptualisation of the Trinidad and Tobago London Village was a unique one because it addressed the problem of a primary venue that spoke to the needs and aspirations both of the artistic community and the general Caribbean public in London.
It took a newly appointed ambassador only a few months in position to execute a tremendous feat that was lacking in London cultural life and reverse the almost perpetual colonially induced thinking that characterised the embassy of Trinidad and Tobago.
The strenuous criticism he received as the Prime Minister's PR manager has been turned into the proverbial philosophical stone with his new appointment, finding a niche that is suitable to his talents. Here was the long awaited display of diversity expressed through a variety of art forms and genres that have never come together before in London except when promoted and endorsed by sections of the host community.
Caribbean people in general and Trinbagonians in particular are starved of a central venue for the staging of art forms, and this 50th anniversary celebration of Trinbago's independence was a most appropriate occasion in which to bring all the art forms together.
We had the rock/reggae blends of Orange Sky, universally acknowledged as Trinbago's most successful rock band, but rock really played a subsidiary role in the band's London debut, confined to the rock forays of its guitarist who reminded one of 1960s London. The greatest figure of forward-moving philosophically oriented music was that of Sheldon Blackman and his Norway-based back-up band, the Soul Rebels.
Without the benefit of his drummer on the opening night and a later acoustic set, Sheldon delighted the audience with his light-beaming personality and New Age lyrics that sipped from the lyrical and musical cup of Bob Marley and the Beatles, but expressed in his own inimitable Trinidadian renditions. Some of the other musical acts were predictable, mediocre, with music that recalled the hotel, supper club circuit.
The literary programme featured the dramatic works of Eintou Springer in her capacity as performer, actress and poet, welding the forms to a one-woman dramatic tale of beautiful portraiture, and the voice of Abdul Malik, a poet who has initiated the advent of spoken-word poetry in Trinidad since the late 1960s but rarely seen on the London stage. Also profiled was the more literary work of London-based Faustin Charles who brought light and laughter (probably due to a shock reaction to his use of expletives) to the audience. The opening act, John Lyons, a published poet, demonstrated both the possibility and the banal of poetry.
The workshops that were conducted by both Eintou Springer for the youth, and Anthony Joseph who did an acknowledged brilliant session, extracted from his PhD thesis, on Lord Kitchener (Aldwyn Roberts), Margaret Busby who performed readings from CLR James, John LeGenre who conducted interviews and chaired some literary sessions, particularly the one with Earl Lovelace speaking about his work, The Dragon Can't Dance. Lovelace is a seasoned professional whose readings are not only fully expressive and satisfying but who brings to the stage a specific cultural approach to intellectualism and philosophy which are characteristic of the deeper Trinbagonian cultural characteristic.
The ambassador who created the context and the physical theatre (by hiring the Tricycle Theatre for a month) for these events has to be seen not only as the first hands-on ambassador but one who has vision of filling a void that exists in the cultural lives of Caribbean people in London. A central venue is needed and Trinidad's next cultural move should be the purchase of an old building that can be refurbished into a multiplex centre that caters for all the arts.
The one criticism that can be made of this event is that attempts should have been made to get exposure via morning shows on TV and radio, and more featured articles in the London press. This could have been easily facilitated by Caribbean PR officers who are well established in this country.
But a really magnificent time was enjoyed by all: The faux Trinidad rum-shop (with the worst rum-punch I have ever tasted), the roti shop and the Coal Pot shop with no pone, a standard Trinbago cuisine, the literary Rum Shop lime, etc., all persuaded the visitor to experience Trinbago in an environment that was cosy, friendly and full of ole talk!
Amon Saba Saakana