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?
We of the Concerned Creative Citizens Group, of which there are one thousand two hundred and forty eight members, have noticed recently that is has been made public that the much touted Cultural Industries Bill, now renamed the Cultural Industries Development Bill, has been approved by Cabinet and is ready to be passed as soon as possible.
We would at this point like to make it very clear that there are still many aspects of this bill with much that we are not in agreement with, and that we reject completely the inference that all creatives have been consulted on the contents on this Bill, resulting in an outcome which all parties involved have agreed upon.
Creatives by nature are NOT politically driven, and as such, we care not which party wins the election as it pertains to the future of culture and the arts in Barbados.
It is no secret that BU is very interested in Sports and Culture as a means to express their most unique talents and the economic benefit likely to accrue to individuals and country. The Sports and Cultural communities have been kicked about like the proverbial football for years by successive governments. It is time for it to stop.
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.
The Telegraph article highlighted the EU Office in Barbados
… £1.8million has been handed to the Caribbean island of Barbados to build a hotel and leisure complex where 200 youngsters will be trained each year in hospitality management. The revelations will intensify the row over the UK’s bloated aid budget, which will soon take up 0.7 per cent of our GDP at a time when vital public services are being pared to the bone…
In terms of GDP per capita, Barbados is wealthier than Portugal, Croatia and Hungary. But the EU has spent millions of pounds on the Hotel PomMarine complex, plus a forensic science laboratory, a language centre and support for the nation’s financial sector.
The excerpt formed the lead stories in two of the United Kingdom’s leading dailies this week, the Mail Online and The Telegraph. One would never guess though if a half interested Barbadian scanned the local media.
Introduction: This government is trapped like a rabbit in headlights when it comes to formulating a cultural policy, if the so-called cultural industries bill is meant to be its calling card. I won’t be too hard on them, since the previous government spent 14 years in office and also failed to come up. But that is history.
In simple terms, national culture is the nation speaking to itself; whether it be fine or performing arts, music, food, literature or any of the other facets of culture. This, somehow, has been lost on the prime minister who recently made rather disparaging remarks about literature and his parliamentary colleagues’ (for that see nation) ability to absorb high art.
Devising a Policy: We already have two powerful cultural vehicles which should be driving out cultural policy. CBC, which for some reason a number of business people want to get their hands on, and the National Cultural Foundation, should work in tandem to drive forward policy. The problem is that there is no policy for the two bodies to champion; on culture, as in most other things, government has run out of ideas.
However, if we were to look at the key aspects of cultural policy, all the building blocks are there: literature, fine arts, sports, food, performing arts, etc. As a small island, we have produced some outstanding writers and at least one world-class poet.
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.
Prime Minister Fruendel Stuart - another matter which the PM needs to get involved.
This blog was compiled with the assistance of a prominence industry professional currently based overseas.
The Hollywood Reporter, the bible of film and TV production in the World’s largest and most successful film production centre, reported on March 24, 2011 on the negative effect tax cuts will have on the Canadian Province of New Brunswick’s film. An extract from the report suggests that, “There will be more than 30 companies here that will be affected. Most will be forced to move to other provinces that support media and they will bring their productions with them,” Maurice Aubin, president of Media NB and director of Mozus Productions said. Canadian provinces like British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in the last two years have managed to woo Los Angeles producers by juicing their film tax credits as debt-laden U.S. states like New York, Michigan and New Jersey either reduce or scrap their Hollywood tax breaks.”
The report goes on to refer to the amount in tax revenue lost to New Brunswick due to the tax breaks. What is kept under a veil of secrecy is the amount of tax that is actually paid in connection with these ventures, tax that will no longer accrue to New Brunswick, but instead will now benefit the respective treasuries of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.
The report continues, “New Brunswick’s film tax credit cost the province $4.4 million in 2008-09, and $3.3 million in 2009-10. The Atlantic province has paid out $2.7 million to film and TV producers in the current fiscal year, and aims to phase the production tax break out in 2011-2012.” Which would mean that instead of receiving 0% tax on $0, New Brunswick is concerned that instead of receiving $10 million, it only received $6 million. Therefore, instead of receiving $6 million, it is prepared to receive nothing and let that $6 million go to the other provinces.