The Empire Strikes Back II, The Big Picture

The most effective way of using the Empire as an arts venue is to have it run under the auspices of the Central Bank management who currently administer  the Frank Collymore Hall (FCH). In this way, the administration is minimized with both operating under the same management team. We have to approach the task at hand in a holistic way, it is the only way, it is the only way.

While the Empire would run as a performing arts venue solely, the FCH ought to be marketed for business meetings, equipped with the latest in teleconferencing services, presentations, recordings,  other ancillary services and of course serve as a performing arts venue. The FCH has limited wing space, no fly space, a shallow stage and no orchestra pit and its seating is small. To put in an orchestra pit would mean sacrificing about 100 to 150 seats and the expense of excavation to access the pit by underground  would take it out of use for a long period of time.

The work begins with the need to build competitive packages to attract record companies that meet or undercut other international studios. This would include a cooperative effort by local stakeholders; the waiving of taxes on equipment brought in by recording companies by government and the like.

Then, there needs to be a major marketing push, Barbados, because of Rihanna has become a top of the mind name across the globe, we are ideally placed to be able to approach prominent names in the business. People like Simon Cowell, Mick Jagger  and L.A. Read to name three. If we build it, they will come because Barbados is not unfamiliar, these people have become known faces on the West Coast of Barbados over the years.

The Empire, we know, will need to be gutted and therefore it can be restructured to include balconies to maximise seating, wing space, fly space and an orchestra pit. That means that it will not be as acoustically compliant as the FCH. However, the limitation on shows that can be performed would be greatly eased. The Empire also ought to have a sprung stage to accommodate dance at the ballet level.

There is no point in thinking however that shows in Barbados can just take off from the get go. Those of us who visit the theatre when we have reason to travel to New York or London for example, the most a major production can sustain itself in Barbados is probably 3 nights. It means that theatre is not the kind of production to be cost-effective to start with. The key to making it work is to marry what some aspire to do in Barbados with our tourism product. By expanding our tourism advertising and landing major names to perform, then, little by little, pre-sales can be managed as a part of the tourism attraction for example and it will lead to being able to sustain shows for longer periods of time and make them more cost-effective.

Hopefully with people like Sir Cliff and others like him living in Barbados who happen to be rich and can identify with a project like this, it will ensure breakeven i.e. it can sustain itself. Major theatres around the world, it is known, rely in the main on contributions from patrons etc. Perhaps Sir Charles, Sir Kyffin and other local deep pockets maybe persuaded to contribute.

The key is to enable the Barbados environment to grow interest and support in the Arts  and by extension the cultural industry. In this process our local cadre of artistes will benefit from participation in the process. We have to take baby steps, something our local cadre of artistes must accept. Here is an ideal opportunity to set up an apprentice scheme for  people interested in pursing a career in the arts both locally and internationally. This is what leveraging our level of education and diversifying our economy is all about.

What about the many tours undertaken by performing arts groups. One such is the St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, which undertakes world tours playing for one or two nights on each stop. Then, there is the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballets. And this is just Russia. Then, there are theatrical touring companies of productions such as Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera and the like. So far we have had to make do with a periodic visit from the Chinese. Two or three nights of any of those mentioned would sell out as soon as the tickets went on sale. Also, there is the opportunity to do pantomimes, which need to have a local flavour and be performed by local artists with a local political and social satire – and those would sustain for a longer run. St. Winifreds School and Peoples Cathedral Christmas programs come to mind which are hugely popular. In such an environment there is the opportunity to inspire local productions.

The debate about the Arts and the need to grow culture in Barbados must be discussed, planned and prioritized by our policymakers with more urgency. Yes we have to design the strategy to ensure that as a sector it can sustain itself but the expression of a people is so important to defining identify, until we do so we will continue to be rudderless on the global seas where national boundaries have become blurred and by extension weak indigenous culture has become watered-down.

To our friends in the local Arts community who have been frustrated over the years to the lip service given to culture in Barbados, we feel your pain but the journey will be long and tortuous but it is one which must be started.

0 thoughts on “The Empire Strikes Back II, The Big Picture

  1. “Here is an ideal opportunity to set up an apprentice scheme for people interested in pursing a career in the arts both locally and internationally. This is what leveraging our level of education and diversifying our economy is all about.”

    Well reasoned! This is where government has to play a facilitating role in leading the country towards the “clear as crystal” necessary path of economic change and adjustment to a new world economy based on ICT and cultural exchange (trading in cultural “products”).

  2. We ain’t waiting for the Government to tell us what they going to do with the Empire, we the people will speak and they will listen. If not elections ain’t far away and by that time the Empire Strikes Back might be group of a few thousand members (already heading to a 1,000) which is more than enough to make a difference in those marginal seats for the DLP.

    Listen to the these people Fruendel, David, Chris, Richard and others, this an organic thing, all natural so lets keep it that way.

  3. @ Che, Fidel & Hugo | November 19, 2011 at 4:24 PM |

    Now here is “thinking outside the box” in action!
    Way to go, fellas! T hese politicians will soon be signing over the Empire along with a $ 1/4 million dollar cheque from the $100 million in profit made by the BNOC/ BNTCL. Just for the record, though, this will not political largesse (to bribe you guys) but a contribution to the arts and culture financed by the motorists of Barbados as intended in the first instance.

  4. @David. Beautifully done. We have some fine performing and technical artists in our little country. Time to become international and build on the capital Rhianna has given us. Look at the mileage Barbados is getting out of her – maybe it is time Babados put that into an investment in the other home-grown artists that we know we produce in such abundance.

  5. WHY not include the Globe Cinema in the mix and purchase the Globe too ?
    IS ‘wunna’ aware that the Globe will be closing down pretty soon ?

    • Good luck to Mikey and  crew with their meeting tomorrow. It promises to be a historic one, perhaps the first time artistes and stakeholders from across the cultural industry will assemble.

      Mike Hulsmeier

  6. David i like your gusto and inspiration Much have been said about The EMPIRE over the years and the many plans in the works after it is restored .some how i endorse yours and i hope it can be place on the table as part of the planning process . Some of the details you mentioned might have to be work out because of cost , but as Donald trump says everything is negotiable. BTW the way i have sent out my operatives to check on the meeting for me as i would be engaged in other official work which is going to take up a lot of my day.Nothing ventured ! nothing Gain!

  7. Curiosly the GOB of Barbados does not have the money to renovate the Empire Theatre but the Barbados Tourism Investment Inc, an agency of the GOB, is actively working on the possibility of developing Speedbird House in a mixed used development.

    For the benefit of all those who don’t know, Speedbird House is the building facing Independence Square and is owned by Mr Paul Alman or a company owned by Mr. Altman.

    I am dying to find out the reasons to be given in justifying the need to get involved in the Speedbird Mixed Use Development, we know friendships won’t satisfy the persistant.

    People remember the Bridgetown Improvement Master Plan, it is central all that is going on down at the Pierhead its environs. Who’s playing games with gaming????

  8. @ Mikey

    Sunlight is the best disinfectant but I don’t think you know the size of the bottled of disinfectant you might have created. We have the get it right up in the corners where the cockroaches and rats hide.

  9. You are -(ac) arent you ?
    You are a , C–right ?
    You are a -CUNT -right ??
    Do you know what a syllogism is – a C ??

  10. Culure and AC are polical operatives, that much is clear. The proposals being considered by the GOB for the Empire Theatre are 1) Beat Foundation 2) Mark Maloney and 3) SMI.

    The GOB has just agreed to expand the scope of the ‘redesign’ of the Pierhead marina by SMI to include master planning up to Jemmotts Lane. This is what the Minister of Finance means when he spoke (about the Empire Theatre) of the Bridgetown Improvement Master Plan.

    You see the GOB has just recently terminated the engagement called Coastal Tourism Master Plan so that SMI aka Bannister could be given this new project, the Bridgetown Improvement Master Plan and charge the GOB accordingly. Its a creative way of giving a contract to someone without the benefit of competitive tendering.

    Stay tuned so we can find out how much money the BTI is asked to pay, in addition to the $40 million for the ‘redesign’ of the Pierhead marina, for the now so-called Bridgetown Improvement Master Plan.

    The Prime Minister is aware of the scam. The DLP government would be commit political suicide if they allow SMI to go ahead with its plan (wish) to create the ‘Monaco of the Caribbean’ which starts at Jemmotts Lane and ends in Pierhead and includes the Empire Theatre. The plan (Monaco of the Caribbean) aka Bridgetown Improvement Master Plan has casino gambling at the centre of it’s feasibility. It even calls for London Boune Towers to be demolished, one assumes because you can’t have poor people living in the middle of an upscale tourism and gambling district.

  11. Near the end of 2009, renowned realtor Paul Altman gave an update on the project and said: “The Pierhead project must get started – this project on its own has the ability to kick-start the entire redevelopment of the town and especially to wake up development of the entire Carlisle Bay area. It must get started!”

    The well-known property developer explains that if it had been implemented ten years ago, it would have been completed today.
    At the time, Altman had also expressed the view that the master plan was prepared about thirteen years ago. He also believes that the old buildings standing along the Pierhead are “begging to be rescued” and the start-up funding required is “totally affordable”.

  12. @ David

    How many have you heard this in the last 4 years ” Barbados is more than an economy, its a society?”

    Can you have a society or build a better one if you don’t have the ARTS? It is a crying shame that in 2011 a country with a rich history can’t make a Home for the Arts.

    Shameful and all politicians should rightfully be ashamed.

    • Agree Arts must feature prominently.

      Without Arts is to be like a faceless person.

      What would be the purpose of our existence if we are all faceless?

  13. Empire Theatre
    Probyn Street,Bridgetown
    1 screen, 859 seats

    The Empire Theatre opened in 1922 as a live theatre and first run motion picture theatre. In the mid-1940’s, it was owned by the British Colonial Film Exchange, Ltd.

    It has been closed since around 1975 and has slowly become derelict, but plans in 2003 had been submitted to restore and renovate the theatre into a home for the national company for performing arts.

  14. Since the “temporary” public library is now located close to the site, and since the old Carnegie library has been closed for several years do we plan to close the library if major constructon is taking place in the area.

    And would it be a good thing to have a Bridgetown without a library?

  15. @Random Thoughts

    The Empire initiative is about the artistes/stakeholders rallying around this cause not to be confused with restoring all dilapidated buildings in Bridgetown. It should be noted however that we are a country which boast of using education to enfranchise our people yet the public library – a symbol of learning – reflects our seriousness about these matters.

  16. David I am a lover of the arts AND of literature, so for me it is not a matter of either or. We need good quality performance space AND we need an excellent public library.

    In this instance I am on the side of the artistes AND on the side of those who want to see a decent library sooner rather than later.

  17. @ Random Thoughts

    We need capital for that! If the government, B & D alike, distributed the funds properly, did their job well, thought creatively, and didn’t grab all the money for themselves, the capital would be there for both of those purposes!


  18. Everyone is claiming the Empire closed 1975, not so, the one time I went to the Theatre was to see “At The Earth’s Core” for my 13th Birthday in 1978 – film distribution is not like now, it took 2 years after the film emerged for it to reach Barbados. A simple check with IMDb (Internet Movie Database) will show the sci-fi film with Doug McClure & Peter Cushing was released in 1976. Either way you slice it? The Empire did NOT close in 1975!

  19. The abandonment of DJH theatre is probably all we need to appreciate Government’s disregard for the performing arts and for actors/playwrights in Barbados. But on closer examination of the situation, you might wonder if this act of betrayal wasn’t strategic, since the government knew that there would be no repercussions from the artistic community, since there is no such thing as an artistic community in Barbados. I hope this inspiring call for the refurbishment of the Empire theatre— and by extension DJH theatre —will awaken the dormant and left-for-dead collective spirits of the Bajan artists.

  20. “@ JUST ASKING. Here’s a suggestion ,please rebrand your handle to TAMPAX,….a bloody nuisance”

    LOLLL Colonel Buggy you are funny and I approve this message!

  21. @ Colonel Buggy | November 20, 2011 at 10:24 PM |
    @ JUST ASKING. Here’s a suggestion ,please rebrand your handle to TAMPAX,….a bloody nuisance”

    What a bloody nose you gave Just Asking! But then again he or she was just asking for it. You can always tell person with a wacky (British) sense of humour! (LOL!).

  22. The membership of the Empire Strikes Back Facebook Group is now nearing 700 people. Let hope that by years end its 2,000+, those kind of numbers will draw attention of the people that matter.

    A brewery at the Empire Theatre, thats what one of the proposals calls for, a brewery. An thats the front runner, the proposal to beat?

    Stupse, I can’t wait to hear the artistic community when the GOB announces it has entered into an agreement with someone to open a brewery at the historic Empire Theatre.

    In leadership it’s always imprortant to remember you MUST have followship.

  23. @ Antz | November 21, 2011 at 4:45 PM |
    “A brewery at the Empire Theatre, thats what one of the proposals calls for, a brewery. An thats the front runner, the proposal to beat?”

    Are you implying that the GoB is seriously considering a beer hall or brewery as a serious proposal for the use of the Empire site?
    Don’t make me laugh! You are kidding, right?

  24. Orite then, wait why you feel CS says its too small and a new home for the culturals will be built in Brandons, he is paving the wicked for the micro brewery which has connections to someone involved in the Villages at Coverely.

    You sleeping Miller, you aint even know what going on in Barbados.

  25. @ Antz | November 21, 2011 at 5:18 PM |

    Don’t forget I am a miller dealing in flour not concrete.
    Man ,if you serious, you would have to call this real bold-faced tiefing, though!
    The fellas must be realizing things real brown and arranging more elections campaign funds since clico up the creek!

  26. @ millertheanunnaki

    Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services lowered its outlook on Barbados, raising the likelihood of a downgrade to junk-grade status, as the Caribbean nation’s debt burden continued to widen.

    Barbados’s annual fiscal deficits have continued to widen as global economic weakness hurts government revenue.

    S&P still rates Barbados at triple-B-minus, on the verge of junk territory. The negative outlook reflects increasing credit risks driven by a weakening external financial and economic environment.

    Barbados’s government has introduced several measures to grow revenue and taken other steps to contain spending, an effort that has improved its fiscal performance in the first six months of the current fiscal year. But high unemployment, relatively high inflation and weak growth prospects continue to pressure the government to spend.

    “Despite some recent improvements, the deficits are projected to continue to be large,” analyst Olga Kalinina said.

    S&P projects the country’s general government debt will average 3.7% of gross domestic product on average between 2011 and 2014, while interest costs eat away 13% of general government revenue.

    A fixed exchange-rate regime puts a heavier onus on fiscal policies, leaving the government less room to maneuver on a macroeconomic level.

    Barbados still benefits from a stable political system and support from the private sector and trade unions for the government’s ongoing adjustment program.

    Moody’s Investors Service in June also gave Barbados a negative outlook, citing concerns about the nation’s ability to absorb high levels of government debt issuance with an already large deficit that was expected to rise. Moody’s rates the nation at Baa3, a rating equivalent with S&P’s

  27. For a start another brewery in Barbados will never get off the ground so long as BHL is still calling the shots. Perhaps John Boyce would be interested.

  28. @ David

    By the way, you remember any agency of the GOB advertising for Expressions of Interest in the restoration of the Empire Theatre, the 3 proposers like they had unside information.

    Who is ADA Consulting, a Mr. Dreyer and Ms. Nuglia? What is their role in the Pierhead Marina, I hear they getting $4 million. I want to know what FOR?

    • @Antz

      Why don’t you tell/send what you know.

      You are correct about the submissions to government re: Empire. In the interest of transparency it should be required to tell Barbadians when did the request for RFPs come?

  29. WHAT have I done to incur the attention of Colonel BUGGERY and
    ISLANDWHORE 246 ???

    CANT you see that I do not trouble nobody
    CANT you see that I ask questions to which I am looking for answers ???

  30. CANT islandwhore 246 see that I am not sinking to her stinking level ???

    DONT you islandwhore 246 know that if a poll were taken on this blog that I would be preferred to you amking a contribution and remainig on this blog ??

  31. @ JUST ASKING | November 23, 2011 at 10:52 PM |
    DONT you islandwhore 246 know that if a poll were taken on this blog that I would be preferred to you making a contribution and remaining on this blog??”

    Are you so cocksure about that? But you don’t make contributions, just ask self serving questions!
    Just Telling you!
    Make a short contribution on any issue you may wish and we might just answer some of your questions.
    Fair enough!
    BTW, Just Asking John, did you just ask our “island pride” for a free ride or did you just paid for services rendered?
    Just nosy!

  32. JUST ASKING | November 23, 2011 at 10:52 PM |

    CANT islandwhore 246 see that I am not sinking to her stinking level ????

    No you have gone to the lowest depths and beyond.

    “DONT you islandwhore 246 know that if a poll were taken on this blog that I would be preferred to you amking a contribution and remainig on this blog ??”

    @JUST MASTURBATING…… Self praise ain’t no praise at all…..ask David to take a poll on this one. I DARE YOU!

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