T&T politicians pretend they are modern, 21st century, and have a clue about Diversification- but the news that the Port of Spain Power Station will be demolished and wiped from our landscape with nary a whimper is a perfect example of how clueless our leaders really are. Trinidad’s political leaders are incapable of ‘the Poetic’- the ability to transform inert elements into value. They lack the creative gene- and many of the present lot seem to not even be capable of being ‘mercantile’… The annual global US$7 trillion Creative Industries are the second largest industries on Earth- and thrive on the poetic creation of value when none seems probable. Toys that cannot sell are made into billion-dollar earning movies- that then sells out warehouses of the same toys… Crumbling inner cities are converted into billion-dollar earning Creative Hubs… And in the UK the abandoned Bankside Power Station was converted into the multi-billion dollar earning Tate Modern Gallery…

tate modern courtesy visitlondon

Tate Modern Gallery

Ever since its decommission the POS Power Station has laid dormant earning nothing- this should not have been. The POS Power Station is not just valuable as raw real estate, scrap metal, or as a past generator of electricity- the facility once it was shut down could have been generating millions in foreign exchange as a Heritage Site and as a Creative Destination. The Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) presented such a plan to the Economic Advisory Board in 2016 as part of its Creative Industries Diversification Master Plan. To no avail…

PowerGen courtesy cnc3_0

POS Power Station

The POS Power Station- formerly T&TEC and then POWERGEN- has been a distinctive part of the T&T urban landscape for 120 years. Its iconic 4 silver and black tower stacks and its distinctive midnight blue siding (then ochre) on it’s squat square lower buildings (as well as its periodic discharge of steam) have been familiars for Trinbagonians and visitors as they entered the capital city and headed West for decades. For such a distinctive building to be quietly closed and then demolished without public fanfare, engagement, and without a larger contemplation of its significance as a marker of meaning or as a potential earner of income(!) is startling and tragic. Par for the course in Trinidad where leaders seem clueless to the worth of anything not in an oil barrel or in a party financiers ‘go-to list’… We have seen the casual decommissioning and dismantling of railroads and trains, tramcars, and all kinds of industrial facilities without a backward glance or a forward contemplation. Past worth or future possibilities be damned… And we have paid for such sins of omission.

people-on-the-millennium-br_ courtesy the tate0

People walking on the Millennium Bridge to the Tate

At the very least the Power Station should have been opened up as an industrial Heritage Site and demystified for a nation of eyes who have always longed to see its insides… At the most a National Debate could have been opened up about its conversion into an alterative energy station. But certainly, in the middle, our leaders should have respected the building’s meaning to us as an icon and allowed Creative entrepreneurs utility of the Power Station to generate US$ and some internal combustion for our economy…. The following is the 2016 ACTT plan for the POS Power Station. We pray that government will still try to engage some of these before the building is vanished:

Cost: Powergen- events- $3.5M reconversion pending site visits and feasibilities;
Agencies: The National Museum, the National Trust, the (future) National Arts Council, Creative-industry stakeholders…

  1. Power Station Pay-Per-View Concerts: Stage a series of major global pay-per-view concerts featuring T&T international artists (Nicki Minaj, Heather Headley, Theophilus London, Billy Ocean, K-Os, Foxy Brown, Kapri, Brownman Nick Ali, etc) and local music stars with performance, costume, and set elements created by Peter Minshall and others in the midst of the stunning setting of the Power Station… These concerts also will serve the aim of positioning ‘international market-ready’ local musicians and music tracks. This will consolidate the idea of Brand T&T Music and T&T as a destination.
  2. Power Station Films: Commission 6 short films and a Heritage documentary by our top filmmakers- based on the Power Station. The 6 films must be differently styled stories involving the Power Station as a presence in the landscape, as an idea, or as a facility. Filmmakers could film romances, horrors, spy-dramas, folklore, sci-fi, super-hero movies- whatever suits their fancy- just as long as the Power Station features critically in its narrative…
  3. Power Station Events: Have different parts of the Power Station opened up for select promoters to hold special events- dinners, parties, costume balls, fashion shows, etc.
  4. Power Station Tours: Have specially guided Heritage Tours of the facility for the public.
  5. Power Station Virtual Tour: Have the Power Station virtually mapped so that, even if it is demolished, people can still virtually tour the facility from all angles and in every room…
  6. Power Station Installation:
    Light Show Tate Modern

    Light show at Tate Modern

    Working with  local and/or foreign light-show and projection experts have the Power Station converted into a beautiful art-installation. Apart from being its own night-time destination (with its own cul-de-sac off the highway and on the Lapeyrouse side created to take pictures and contemplate it) this project would have gotten Brand T&T into many major Art, Fashion, and Architecture Magazines– even global TV news outlets. Free global publicity you would have paid over US$20 million for…

  7. Power Station Conversations: An important regional intellectual and town hall discussion/conference on the fate of electricity and energy in the region. Hosted at our national conference centre in Hyatt and moving between it and the Power Station the conference could be an opportunity to have global experts come and discuss with us the various necessary alternatives for the energy-future of T&T and the Region.

All these ideas have as their backdrop the iconic Port of Spain Power Station. They are all foreign-exchange generating. They use dead real estate as a poetic jumping-off point for beauty, societal engagement, and for the fulfillment of civilizational objectives. This is what Diversification looks like! This is what the Creative Economy looks like!!! The Poetic Use of natural resources. The out-of-the-book innovative utility of inert elements to generate value. Industry is not about “a thing you can store in a warehouse and put a ‘mark-up’ on” any more- not since the deregulated Wall Street 80s, not since the tech-boom 90s, and definitely not since the Creative Industry 21st century…

Our politicians who still hold to 19th century Victorian-era industrial ideas of value- ‘lawyer’, ‘doctor’, ‘manufacturing’, and ‘oil and gas’ need to understand that there are video game companies bigger than Oil companies and that their duty is to unleash the Creative Class who can create value out of thin air. After all, aren’t we the people who converted discarded oil drums into symphonic instruments and delinquent gangs into symphony orchestras?”

Posted on June 2, 2018, in President's Blog and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Great….like New York’s ‘Highline’…

  2. Rhoda Reddock

    The old Toronto Power Station has also been converted into an art gallery along a waterfront with quayside restaurants, open air performance spaces etc.
    Our aesthetic sensitivities are really underdeveloped.
    A great deal of work to do to change this.

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