Author Archives: rubadiri
Retooling the economy after the COVID pandemic shutdown and global quarantining.
Now that both parties have released their manifestoes — see here for comparisons — it is important that Sector voices present some of the best Sector thinking on the way forward.
The Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) has been the primary Creative Industry lobbyist and representative group in T&T for 20 years. A mutating Creative Sector Masterplan has existed since 1997 and has been subsequently fed into by widespread consultation between groups, experts, and international agencies. Many of the working Creative programmes in the public sector came from these lobbies. The initiatives here come from three places.
- They include many International Best Practice policy, legislative, institutional, and fiscal tools that EVERY single economy that has profited in the annual US$2.2 trillion dollar Creative Economy has implemented.
- Some are relevant indigenous proposals from past T&T Sector Masterplans
- Some are adaptations of programmes currently underway in international Best Practice markets to advance post-COVID Creative Economies.
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…
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…
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.
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…
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- Power Station Tours: Have specially guided Heritage Tours of the facility for the public.
- 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…
- Power Station Installation:
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…
- 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?”
Estimated reading time: 50 minutes. SPOILERS INCLUDED
There is no denying this cultural moment. The Black Panther movie has inspired the African diaspora with the vision of a Black and African superhero who leads an unconquered African nation that is the most technologically advanced on Earth that has built this from the ground up out of its ancient traditions. The movie has also assembled some of the most beautiful and gifted Black diaspora talents in front and behind the camera in an unprecedented big-budget Black movie epic about African subject matter set on the continent. Just on the strength of its trailers, its majestic art direction, and its strategic hype led by its beautiful diaspora-wide cast millions of Black people around the world have already been awakened to new possibilities of self and new imaginative frontiers. The vision of such a movie done on an epic scale by black writers, a black director, co-producer, production designer, and costume designer, and a storied multi-generational mostly Black A-list cast has inspired a groundswell of black diaspora arousal around the idea of an idyllic Black present and future. This article will attempt to critically assess the movie and the larger cultural moment that is cascading around it… Read the rest of this entry
It would seem that the main prongs of MusicTT’s ‘Key MusicTT Implementation Projects’ announced in the National Budget 2017/18 have come from the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago’s (ACTT) presentations to the Economic Advisory Board (EAB) and numerous project submissions to various organisations that have overseen the Sector over the years-from the ‘Ministry of Arts’ to TTEnt, etc.
The 4 prongs of MusicTT’s plan — the Live Music strip, the ‘Academy or finishing school, etc. — correspond exactly to the programmes that ACTT presented to these organisations. The ACTT Project is called ‘The Music Incubation Project‘ and here is the opening paragraph to it from our Sector Masterplan document which presented the full Creative Sector Diversification plan to Dr. Terrance Farrel, Dr. Kerron Niles, and the rest of the EAB:
“The ‘Music Incubation’ model is the enabling environment for an annual Billion Dollar music industry which facilitates: best practice recordings by the best talents; a mandatory Live-Music scene on our night-life strips on Ariapita Avenue, St James, San Fernando, Tunapuna, etc; managerial and industry training; and aspirational pathways to international expos.”
This last week this government has demonstrated again the complete bankruptcy of Imagination of our ruling class- and shown us exactly why this country is in the tragic mess it is in. Government destroyed the home of legendary George Padmore and Henry Sylvester Williams- the fathers of Pan Africanism. These are the men responsible for midwifing the Independence movements across the African continent and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In that same week government also closed down the Government Information Service Limited (GISL)- the repository of the country’s pre-Independence TV archives and hundreds of other radio and TV programmes. The reason they gave in both instances is that these items were either derelict or losing money…
The thing is this: correctly deployed the archives of GISL could have been earning tens of millions of dollars a year. And: re-designed into a multi-media Heritage Site the George Padmore House would have been a multi-million dollar earning Heritage Tourism Site attracting visitors- real and virtual- in the thousands per year from across the African Diaspora and further afield.
The last picture in my folder is of another tragedy waiting to happen. It is a picture of the fabled Lion House (from Nobel Laureate VS Naipaul’s seminal ‘House for Mr Biswas’) falling apart, as it lies abandoned. Government is in possession of plans to transform the Lion House into another multi-million dollar Heritage Site- a VS Naipaul multi-media Museum- and have done nothing with it. This Naipaul Museum would be a pilgrimage point for literature lovers from all over the world…