September 20, 2020

Things that Matter: The Preservation Barbados Trust & Tourism’s rebirth


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henry-fraser-professor-now-sir1509-450x303By Sir Henry Fraser From The Barbados Advocate

On Thursday evening I had the pleasure of taking part in the launch of Dr. The Honourable Chelston Brathwaite’s splendid autobiography TEN DEFINING MOMENTS. On Monday evening I took part in the launch of the Preservation (Barbados) Foundation Trust, at Ilaro Court. And I believe Monday’s event was a MAJOR “Defining moment” for modern Barbados, when the heritage of Barbados and its socio-cultural, tourism and economic importance was recognised with the full commitment of the Governor General himself, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, and many Barbadian citizens and adopted Barbadians.

Our Governor General is patron of the Preservation (Barbados) Task Force and the Preservation Trust – the vision of the Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth; and Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Baron of Sydmonton, world famous musical composer and theatrical producer, is the international patron. His support for our efforts and his ideas for assisting symbolise the global importance of our UNESCO inscribed World Heritage site – Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison. But the efforts of the Preservation Trust must go even beyond the UNESCO site, because so much more of our heritage is of global importance.

Barbados has a rich history … peopled first by Amerindians, who departed but left rich evidence of their culture; we were then settled almost 400 years ago by English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Africans and a few Dutch; never invaded except by English forces in the English Civil war, but negotiating an honourable and historic truce, with the famous Charter of Barbados, precursor to the American Declaration of Independence; creating a colourful creole culture of English and African; and progressing to a healthy, vibrant democracy and Independence.

But on this tiny island is a rich built heritage, recognised three years ago, on June 25th, 2011, with the UNESCO inscription … only the fourth in the region, the South and Eastern Caribbean … stating to the world the importance of both the fabric of our famous Garrison – the jewel in the crown – and our ancient city. This can transform our tourism industry, because World Heritage sites are an illustrious badge of honour, and Heritage Tourism is the fasting growing aspect of tourism across the world.

For me it’s been a journey of 33 years since publishing the first edition of Historic Houses of Barbados. For my sins I was asked to chair the nomination task force for the UNESCO goal to convert our heritage into real gold. And the task of the Task Force and Preservation Trust is to raise the millions we need to preserve our precious built heritage – the derelict dozen built treasures in the crown … from a simple row of ancient chattel houses in Bay Street, representative of our most significant cultural icon, to Culloden Farm, the official residence of National Hero the Right Excellent Errol Barrow; from the Marshall Hall to the Carnegie Library and the extraordinary 300-year-old Supreme Court of 1733, next door; from the Old Eye Hospital of 1805 to the magnificent Glendairy Prison …

The Trust has six Trustees – yours truly (Chair), attorney Glenda Medford, realtor Paul Altman, businessman David Neilands, the Rev. Patrick Tannis and the Permanent Secretary in Culture, Ruth Blackman. And the launch at the start of a new year is symbolic of the determination of our Minister of Culture, the Task Force and the Trustees, to make this year a signature year of successful partnership between Government and all Barbadians and all adopted Barbadians … all our friends here and everywhere … from celebrities and CEOs to the widows with widows’ mites … to restore and preserve our built Treasures.

In his remarks the Prime Minister emphasised the many ways in which old buildings can be restored and adapted to modern use “as offices, residences … and the list goes on”, and the importance of skilled artisans, because restoration provides sustainability in the labour market. Restoration is labour intensive rather than foreign exchange demanding and hence has a direct benefit on both employment and the economy.

And Minister Stephen Lashley acknowledged the donations and pledges already received from the US Embassy, the Maria Holder Trust, Courts/Unicomer (Barbados) Ltd., Foster and Ince, and Sir George Alleyne; and he appealed to every Barbadian and friend of Barbados to help in this national restoration programme. The priority number 1 of the Task Force is the restoration of the Carnegie Free Library, given by Andrew Carnegie’s Foundation a century ago. A quantity survey was carried out with funding from the US Embassy, by architect Michael Lashley, engineer Greg Hazard and QS Keith Brown, and the target is less than 2 million Barbados dollars. It’s hoped that restoration of the adjacent Supreme Court building will follow, both for the National Library. With the restoration of the old Fire Station and artisans’ workshops next to the Synagogue, this area of the historic core of Bridgetown will be an inspiration to us all. But we must find similar private / public partnerships to restore our magnificent lighthouses and other structures, to match the splendid restorations of buildings like Hastings House, like Verona, by the MT and W, and Shirley at Hastings, by Consolidated Finance.

Contributions to the Preservation (Barbados) Foundation Trust can be made directly to the Foundation’s bank account at the Royal Bank of Canada, Chelston Park, St. Michael, Barbados, by cheque, cash, bank draft or wire transfer, or with a formal presentation for major donations.

May this year 2015 be a year to remember as the year that we polished the jewel in the crown.

Bouquet: To Dr. Chelston Brathwaite for his inspiring autobiography Ten Defining Moments – an Extraordinary Journey, available at the exciting new bookshop Chattel House Books at Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall … and about which more anon!

(Professor Fraser is past Dean of Medical Sciences, UWI and Professor Emeritus of Medicine. Website:
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