The Walcott Brothers, Roderick and the Honourable Derek Walcott, have contributed more to Saint Lucia’s reputation overseas than any other Saint Lucian artistes. With their Saint Lucia Arts Guild they had made Saint Lucia not only the premier artistic centre of the Caribbean, but, as well, the envy of the Region in theatrical productions.
The world has come to know of the Hon Derek Walcott through his poetry and his plays. He is, without any shadow of doubt, the most famous poet alive to-day writing in the English language.
His twin brother, the late Roderick Walcott, elevated Saint Lucia’s Folk Culture to heights undreamed of since his death, and, through his musicals, with which Mr Charles Cadet collaborated, he has left us with a string of memorable songs from such as ‘Banjoman,’ ‘Chanson Marianne,’ ‘Romiel Ec Juliette,’ ‘The Guitar Man’s Song,’ and ‘The Devil At Christmas,’ to name but a few, not to mention his other plays.
In 1986, as the newly appointed Director of Culture, I persuaded the Government of Saint Lucia to participate in a Cultural Festival in the United Kingdom, ‘Caribbean Focus,’ and took along two plays, Derek Walcott’s ‘Ti-Jean And His Brothers’ and the musical, ‘Banjoman,’ plus pieces of sculpture by Joseph Eudovic and photographs of Saint Lucia’s most exciting sceneries by Mr Frank Norville, a most competent photographer.
The world knew of the Hon Derek Walcott through his poetry, but, outside Saint Lucia, his twin brother, Roderick, a most accomplished playwright, was unknown. I was determined to change that.
Since the demise of the Saint Lucia Arts Guild, once the Walcott Brothers had left Saint Lucia, the only Government that had set out to create the enabling environment for the Arts in Saint Lucia was that of the late Sir John Compton when, in 1964, he had his Government to purchase the lands at Barnards Hill as the site of Saint Lucia’s National Theatre. Forty-six years later we still have not that National Theatre.
Not only that, but what we have of Saint Lucia’s most prestigious poet and playwright is a public square named after him! Not even a Department of the Creative Arts, named after him, at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. Worse yet, his marvelous project, The Rat Island Foundation where the Hon Derek Walcott would have brought to Saint Lucia some of the world’s most famous artists to train young Saint Lucians in the various artistic disciplines, never got the support to get off the ground.
Rumours are now circulating that the Government intends to seek an alternative site for Saint Lucia’s National Theatre and to establish Government Offices instead on Barnard Hill. If those rumours were to be true then that would be the final and
greatest insult to the memory and vision of the Father of the Nation, the late Sir John George Melville Compton.
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