It was interesting to note Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson’s perspective in the news last week about the importance of forging the creative/cultural industries and sport. She asserted that “these sectors have the potential to be important drivers of economic development.” Bear in mind Jamaica is light years ahead of all the countries in the Caribbean as far as leveraging theses two sectors. It is also noteworthy that Prime Minister Portia Simpson has responsibility for sports supported by a Junior Minister.
To Barbados’ credit we were informed in the lead up to the 2013 General Election that the Cabinet of Barbados approved the Cultural Industries Bill (CIB). It has been reported that the CIB will be one of the early bills to be read in parliament. It took five years to complete the consultative and drafting process and many of the stakeholders in the Arts sector now eagerly look forward to its implementation. However, others have reviewed the final draft and remain doubtful that it has the ‘meet’ to nurture and grow our nascent cultural industries.
One needs to go no further than page 8 of the CIB, “approved producer of audio-visual content means a film production company incorporated under the Companies Act…that is controlled by a resident of Barbados”. Does anyone believe any reputable film company is going to make films in Barbados with this precondition? What about non-Bajans who are resident in Barbados?
Alison Sealy-Smith, Senior Business, NCF in contention for CEO position
It is all very well to talk blithely about an “association” of artists and how it is to be non-governmental. But to leave it like that on the part of this group of concerned creatives is, frankly, completely inadequate.
Yes, I agree that if there is to be a serious arts and culture industry, there has to be an association, a non-government association acting as a union, of artists. That is an essential first step. If you take on board that all arts and culture starts (and ends) with the artists and creatives, then you must know that, without them, there is no “product” for the “entrepreneurs” to market and make a fortune on, while handing back a bare pittance to the artists and creatives. And the “entrepreneurs” have carefully brainwashed creatives into thinking that they are doing the creatives a favour, so that creatives are completely happy to peddle into Bridgetown on their bikes and tug their forelocks as the “entrepreneurs” pass in their new BMWs. A century ago, this was the case in the USA – and 90 years ago, it ceased to be the case. So, let us look at the history of trades union and guilds in the arts in other countries and see if there is a parallel to be found to Barbados.
We are a group of creative Barbadians called the Concerned Creative Citizens Group. This group, made up of key members from various disciplines of our cultural community, was formed out of immense concern over the contents of the Cultural Industries Bill, which was being circulated by the Ministry of Culture a few months ago, with the intention of having it passed as a legal document. Our members are well versed in all aspects of culture and we went over the proposed Bill with a fine toothed comb, our efforts culminating with our recommendations being formally presented to the Ministry and addressed to Minister Stephen Lashley on April 30th 2012, via a hand delivered letter which outlined both the good points contained in the Bill as well as the serious flaws it possessed which we felt needed to be addressed.
Personal correspondence was then communicated between Minister Lashley and the group on several occasions, with one such letter assuring us that all submissions were being considered regarding proposed amendments to the Bill. A meeting was set up to discuss these proposed amendments between consultant representative of the Ministry of Culture Ms Andrea King and members of our group, which was also attended by UNESCO consultant Andrew Senior, who was purportedly hired by the Ministry of Culture to help with the Culture Industries Bill. At this meeting we were informed categorically by Mr. Senior that he was not involved in amendments to the Bill but was hired to advise government on ‘entrepreneurship’ in the culture industry of the island. We were, however, made more aware of the real purpose of the Bill, which we found appeared to have a high level of the principles of entrepreneurship at its core, and in our view was more focused on turning the cultural industries into a revenue earner for Government, and very much less on the inherent gains which should be derived from the Bill to the benefit of all creative practitioners in our country.
In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot – Mark Twain
The government is on a tight timetable to enact several pieces of legislation before parliament has to be dissolved before the next general election. A peek at the Order Paper of the House of Assembly for next Tuesday’s sitting announces a number of bills, among them the long awaited Prevention of Corruption Bill 2010 which was sent to a Joint Committee in July 2011. Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart has promised the country his government still has work to do, which confirms the belief in many quarters that Stuart may become the first Prime Minister to go the extra time which the constitution affords before calling the next general election.
While many Barbadians agree that our legislative framework needs to be strengthened to efficiently guide how we order our society. The process of enacting such legislation – to be effective – must encourage wide collaboration with stakeholders and facilitate rigorous debate to ensure there is fit for purpose. BU does not want to believe that in the government’s haste to enact legislation, the quality of the effort is compromised at the altar of political expediency.