September 16, 2012:
I have been invited to bring greetings on behalf of my Ministry, the Ministry of Public Administration, at tonight’s Formal Launch of the 42nd Annual Festival of the Arts and Culture, the Awards Ceremony and Installation of officers for the new two-year term 2012 – 2014.
I can greet the San Fernando Arts Council as a whole, and recognize your contribution to San Fernando individually and collectively, over more than the 42 years that the Council has existed. But when I look around there are so many familiar faces on the Council and in the audience belonging to people I would really love to greet individually and personally. So many people I have known for so long, people like Torrance.
So many of you who have given so much to making San Fernando the most integrated and the most culturally conscious city in Trinidad and Tobago, are here tonight. So many icons of the Southland, so many jewels in our cultural crown, that I feel humble and proud at the same time.
Humble in the presence of people who have done so much, contributed so much and yet continue to give. And proud to be a San Fernandian. Proud of San Fernando. Proud of all that we have achieved in arts, culture and all their manifestations – pan, piano, painting – drama, debating, dance – carnival, ceramics, creativity – I am overwhelmed by a multitude of riches, the true wealth of our human resources, the true meaning of togetherness. This is San Fernando. This validates and celebrates the theme of this year’s Festival – “The Arts: A Pathway to Motivation, Inspiration and Unity.” The arts are all that and more, especially in the fertile ground of the Naparima Plain.
We have all limed on the Promenade together; visited the panyards and listened to the Bomb tune rehearsal together; rolled down Coffee Street and fought gravity trying to chip down Chancery Lane together; and together have made San Fernando a cultural melting pot fuelled every year by the creative genius of the youth of our city, watched over by the elders and stirred by the Arts Council. In a way it is like a genuine Pepperpot. Every generation goes into it, adds the spice, the flavor and the nutrition, and keeps the dish going, preserving the freshness year after year, generation after generation.
I cannot commend you enough, nor can I praise the talent of each generation of young people enough. Every year we discover people who can carry the torch not just of San Fernando but of the unique culture of Trinidad and Tobago forward into the future and help them light the way ahead for the next generation. In thinking of this progression, this procession, this parade of achievement and aspiration, I just keep looking at Torrance, still here, still the nucleus that creates the fission, the spark, the explosion of talent that we see year after year.
I think, too, of James Lee Wah and so many others who were the centre of our cultural universe for so long. Remember the Secondary Schools Drama Festival – this might have been the first national cultural event that originated and remained in San Fernando. That was James.
I still cannot get over the 42 years. It is true it shows my age but it is almost like yesterday I was in the mainstream of the arts and culture movement that the Council represents. The strength of a city, of a country or a culture, is in its linkages, its bridges through time and space, its institutions that grow instead of diminish, that hold the society together instead of choking the life out of it. This is what we in San Fernando have created – a positive force for the development, growth and sustainability of our culture, and the national culture, here in San Fernando.
All you prize winners here tonight, let me congratulate you also. In my Ministry, we are focused on what we call the Journey from Gold to Diamond – from fifty years of achievement to fifty more years of excellence. Winning an award at any level in the festival is a fantastic achievement given the high level of the competition, I congratulate you and you all deserve a round of applause from all of us here.
But you need to recognize that even if you have won gold you have to work towards the diamond level. It is a journey that you have to make yourself. You have a very supportive environment here in San Fernando but you need to take yourself to the next level. You will find in your development as an artist that excellence is a moving target and that the need to be current and stay current will mean that you cannot be complacent.
Let me also compliment the new council members and the Committee as a whole as you begin the next two years and carry the council forward hopefully to reach higher heights. I am impressed, as a business person, to see that you have developed a strategic plan which this new Committee will implement.
In looking at the Council members here, I can see that you will do what one hopes every Board of Directors, every new management will do. Add value. This is the key. If as an individual or a group you are not adding value to the Plan or you merely implement without improving, give it up. But I am sure of this group that I see here. Please know that as a friend, colleague, MP and Minister feel free to involve me and to include me. Whatever I can do to help, be certain that I will do it. You have my word on that.
Finally, let me thank the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago for the nine years of support that it has so far given to the Festival – the boost, one would say the energy and certainly the catalyst for carrying forward the festival and making every new year a better year. Clearly, the Council is cooking with gas. I commend NGC for selecting a really good platform to support – the creativity of our people and the creativity of the South.
I thank you all.