The Time Has Come To Tell The Story Of The Barbados Arts Council.
The Barbados Arts Council was established on December 6th 1957 as a Non-Governmental organization with a mandate to promote, support and develop all the Arts of Barbados.
The early years saw an emphasis on the performing arts, but the visual and literary arts were also actively developed in a number of sub-committees.
Today, the BAC functions mainly as a Visual arts organization centered in the BAC Gallery at The Pelican Craft Village in Bridgetown.
The BAC Gallery has an ‘open door policy’, which welcomes established artists and new talent alike, and so it has remained a vital force in the development of the arts in Barbados for the past 60 years.
The BAC also serves as consulting body for art-policy and –administration, while looking after the interests of art and artists in legislative matters.
The BAC mission has been documented in minutes, correspondence, newspaper articles, sketches and notes, most of which were, thankfully, kept as the BAC headquarters moved from Wakefield to Queen’s House, then to Pelican Village, and, recently, to two different locations in the Pelican Craft Centre. But our tropical climate (with the added punch of ‘Sea blast’) is not kind to archived documents and the records of decades of dedicated work were only just salvageable.
These primary sources form the core my research.
My first task was to sort, sanitize and scan everything, even the smallest scrap or scribble. These are being saved, physically in plastic containers and. digitally, in an external drive, which will be presented to the BAC on completion of research and publication of findings.
My second task was a Timeline and the third is to publish the findings both as an E-book and printed version during this 60th Anniversary Year.
The Barbados Arts Council Inaugural Meeting. Wakefield. British Council. 06-12-1957
Mr. Julian Marryshow (in the chair), Mr. Hugh Springer,
Dr. and Mrs. Rawle Farley, Mrs. B.B. Ward, Mr. Aubrey Douglas-Smith, Mr A. Briggs Clarke, Mr. Clyde Gollop, Miss. P. Brown, Mr. L.A. Harrison, Mr. Lyndon Clough, Miss. Rosemary Skinner, Miss Nell Hall,
Rev. O.C. Haynes, Miss Cicely Parkinson, Mr. G.O. Bell, Miss Enid Archer, Mr. Walter Thompson, Mr. Oliver Chandler, Mr. Collis Bayley, Mr. Lionel Gittens, Mr. Curtis Nurse, Mr. Bob Taylor.
The Chairman outlined the need for an Arts Council and how the idea had evolved. The Draft of the rules and regulations were discussed and amendments suggested before the election of officers. It was agreed that the UCWI and the British Council should be invited to nominate one member each to the Central Committee.
FIRST ELECTED OFFICERS.
President: Mr. Hugh Springer.
Vice Presidents: Mr. Julian Marryshow and Mr. G.O. Bell.
Hon. Treasurer: Mrs. Rawle Farley.
Hon. Secretary: Mr. Bob Taylor.
Assistant Hon Secretary: Mr. G.O. Bell.
P.R.O: Mr. Oliver Chandler.
Central Committee: Mrs. B.B. Ward, Mr. Lyndon Clough,
Mr. Aubrey Douglas-Smith, Mr. Clyde Gollop, Rev. O.C.Haynes.
There were plans to incorporate the Council.
Hugh Springer called for the establishment of a National Gallery and for a permanent home of the Arts Council in the form of a Cultural Centre with facilities for all the Arts.
These calls have been repeated by most Presidents since, but are yet to be answered.
Committees for Music, Drama, Dance, Literature, Film, Photography and the Literary Arts were established. The BAC organized Concerts, Recitals and Art Exhibitions, produced Plays, Film shows and Radio programs.
It ran Competitions and Workshops, funded Scholarships and hosted visiting Lecturers, Authors, Artists Musicians, Theatre Companies and Orchestras.
There was close co-operation between the BAC, the U.C.W.I., the British Council, the Ministry of Social Services and the Bridgetown City Council.
The Council also retained a number of Affiliated Groups.
The Central Committee met regularly at Wakefield, the British Council Headquarters. The BAC advised on the design and functionality of the Civic Theatre at Queen’s House and was promised office space in the refurbished building.
This was realized in 1960 and the Queen’s House remained the BAC Headquarters until 1967, when essential repairs forced a “Temporary move” to one of the Council’s Galleries at Pelican Village.
When, in 1958, Hugh Springer left to take up the post of Registrar at the UCWI, Jamaica, Bruce Hamilton replaced him as President.
He was followed by Denis Malone in (1959),
Sir Frank Holder (1960-64), Bruce St. John (1965-67),
Sir William Douglas (1968-72).
John Wickham (1973-74), Grantley Prescod (1974-82),
Gordon Parkinson (1983-86), Lilian Nicholson (1986-89),
Ian Walcott (1989-90),Donna Millington (1990),
Ian Walcott (1991-93), Neville Legall (1994—96),
Lilian Nicholson (1997-99),
Presidents since 2000:
Neville Legall, Hugh Corbin, Denzil Manns, Martina Pile, Rasheed Boodho and Sylvester Clarke.
The current President is Neville Legall, whose dedication to the Council has served the Art Community well over several decades.
There is an abundance of well-known actors and unsung heroes in annals of the BAC. Some made brief, but impactful appearances, others kept a low, but steady, profile, yet made invaluable contributions.
Among them were Karl Broodhagen, who inspired generations of artists at home and abroad, Briggs Clarke, Golde White, Basil Jones, and people like Ed Oxley and Keith Blackett, whose calm presence and “institutional memory” was an invaluable asset in trying times. There were many, many others and they will all be remembered and honoured in “Our Very Own. A history of the Barbados Arts Council”.
The book is dedicated to Mrs Anette Warden, who, as Miss Anette Scott, took up the post as Gallery Assistant at the Pelican Gallery on November 20th, 1967. She became the Council’s Administrative Secretary when Miss E.H. Williams retired.
Mrs. Warden’s sense of order, fairness and attention to detail was unsurpassed. She did not tolerate fools or frauds and did not hesitate to speak her mind when the occasion arose.
She often also went beyond the call of duty and spent many hours making sure, that all was well with the Council and its members.
Artist’s organizations are, notoriously, as fragile as the egos of their members, and so they tend to have a limited lifespan.
Mrs. Anette Warden is, in my humble opinion, one of the main reasons why this particular Art Organization has lasted for a full 60 years.
Lilian Sten-Nicholson A.I.C.A.
December 6th 2017
This project was made possible through a grant from the Art and Sports Fund Committee (ASFC).
I am also grateful to BAC Presidents Rasheed Boodho and Neville Legall,who facilitated the use of the BAC archives and to the late Fielding Babb who graciously allowed me access to his Log Books
and historical collection.