Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley (right), discussiong matters of culture with Professor Henry Fraser (left) and President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andy Armstrong. (A. Miller/BGIS)??

Barbados’ Minister of Culture, Stephen Lashley, believes that cultural industries, inclusive of the modern aspect of heritage, would be one of the pivotal points for the future growth of Barbados’ economy.

Mr. Lashley expressed the view yesterday during the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s monthly luncheon at the Hilton Hotel.

He told the business persons that it continued to be one of the most resilient sectors in the economic recession. "In fact, it has been reported that this sector was perhaps the only one to have survived so well in relation to the ongoing economic recession… Even though people may have a little dent in their pockets, they still want to go to the cinema and to visit heritage sites. And, the value added, created by having this experience, is what, in my view, will help to increase spend from visitor arrivals.

"We have a responsibility to tease the money out of their pockets, but we cannot do it without investing in the cultural industries sector, thereby adding that value which is needed," he stated.

The Minister described the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of prime importance to the international community and said everything must be done, not only to market, but preserve it. He urged the business people to partner with Government to ensure the numerous benefits could be reaped.

He noted that there were many historic buildings within the site that had been neglected over the years and stressed that they must be rescued. "Very shortly I expect to take to the Cabinet of Barbados a proposal to establish a task force comprising many persons in the private sector and those who have an interest in built heritage. That task force will have the responsibility of working with government to source funding to ensure we can, on a systematic basis, restore our heritage buildings, not only in Bridgetown, but across Barbados. Once the Cabinet approves that proposal, I hope the task force can get to work to ensure we can get to the point we need to," he declared.

However, Mr. Lashley challenged the private sector to undertake a partnership with government to restore the Empire Theatre, so it could be the prime performing arts centre in the Caribbean. He expressed the view that "we would be making a mistake if we did not put our investment dollars behind the restoration of our historic buildings", arguing that persons would be in a position to take maximum advantage of the global movement that usually rebounds after a recession.

The Minister also encouraged the private sector to include a cultural space for performing arts when building corporate centres. He suggested this inclusion would be a public declaration of their confidence in the creative arts.


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