THE local arts community is standing defiant in the face of the government, saying they have no plans to allow the National Cultural Centre (NCC) to be relocated.
Following up from the first one that was held earlier last month, a second meeting was hosted last Wednesday evening at the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) to piece together the developments and updates from the last meeting.
In what proved to be a passionate exchange of suggestions, a group of about 50 people, including the five-member committee that was formed at the first meeting, sat down to discuss the way forward.
Retired Events Officer of the CDF, George “Fish” Alphonse, said it was a collective effort to engage the arts community across the board to hear what they thought about the proposed relocation of the National Cultural Centre.
Alphonse said it was not his struggle alone but for all St. Lucian artists and, as such, he is rallying the troops to fight the battle together instead of taking on the battle on his own.
“We personally believe the way forward is not taking the artists out from up here and sending them somewhere else. We already have a home; we were not searching for a home. All we wanted was a new cultural centre. That’s what we have always wanted right on this venue here.”
He continued: “Being told that we have to pack up and leave, we felt that this was an injustice.”
The current situation indicates that the NCC, which was originally a temporary shelter, will be relocated to another temporary shelter at a different location and be replaced temporarily by a courthouse. This, Alphonse said, was outrageous.
He said: “It’s troubling and frightening. All of those costs should be going towards a permanent structure. You cannot be taking out a cultural centre from its temporary location, putting it in another temporary location, and asking the artists to wait.”
He said artists are constantly being told by the government that a new cultural centre would be built. However, he said the arts community cannot wait another 30-40 years before the government keeps its word. “We cannot wait that long,” he said.
During the meeting, one committee member gave an example of effective petitioning, where he got one media establishment to apologise for a compromising report, simply by showing them the numbers of support gathered from a petition. He said those who signed the petition were willing to publicly boycott the clients and sponsors of the media house if they failed to comply with the demands.
The committee member stated that there are ways in which the government can be convinced to back down from their plans — if people came together collectively to show them who really are in charge.
He said: “There are certain areas that we can go to and it can hurt the seat of the Prime Minister. So we have to devise ways of doing that. We can apply pressure where it will hurt. Petitions are very effective.”
The group came to the unanimous decision to get a legal team together and put them to work as soon as the next day to get as much legal advice and documentation together so that they could get the ball rolling on putting a stop to the planned relocation action.
It was also agreed that once this was done, the select committee would request a sitting with both the CDF executive as well as members of the Government to come to some form of common ground.
The committee revealed that they have made plans to make their plight heard and to rally support from upcoming national events.
They said the government was not wasting any time and is moving quickly, so they must in turn move even quicker, and that they know just how to do that.
Towards the end of the meeting, the hashtag #IamArt was created and was established as the movement’s signature to spread awareness and to gather as much support as possible.
This hashtag, they said, will hopefully be used on all social media sites and get young and old to join in on the action.