The intersection of Chaussée Road and Grass Street came alive on Saturday January 17, 2015 at the sod-turning ceremony for the Walcott Place Project. The event was graced by Honourable Derek Walcott, his family and close friends. Also present were Governor General of Saint Lucia and Patron of the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT), Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy, Taiwanese Ambassador James Chi-ping Chang, Minister of Physical Development Housing and Urban Renewal – Senator Honourable Stanley Felix, Parliamentary Representative for Castries Central – Honourable Richard Frederick, officials from the various Ministries involved in the Walcott Place Project, residents from Chaussée Road and environs, representatives of the Grass Street Development Association, SLNT Councillors, members and staff, renowned individuals from the Arts society and the media.
Upon the arrival of the Governor General, a most riveting rendition of the National Anthem was given by Gale Annius followed by a heartfelt prayer by Monsignor Patrick Anthony. The vibrant music in the distance heralded the arrival of the Masqueraders from KiddiCrew and stilt walkers from Laborie: Les Ti Zeansez de Labowi. The procession and performance was enjoyed by both those seated and the numerous onlookers who lined the sidewalks.
The gathering was addressed by Senator Felix who said that no urban space is devoid of issues and cautioned that if not addressed it might result in the death of a city by neglect.
In his remarks, the Taiwanese Ambassador stated that his country has pledged US$2.8 million towards the project of which US$500,000 was disbursed on October 24, 2014. His Excellency Chi-ping Chang indicated that the funds will assist in converting the childhood home of Nobel Laureate Derek Walcott and his twin brother Roderick Walcott into a national cultural landmark. Thereafter, excerpts compiled by Kendel Hippolyte from the Walcott brothers’ works, entitled ‘The House on Chaussée Road’, were performed with much vivacity by Kendel and Jane Hippolyte and Vladimir Lucien.
During his address, MP for Castries Central, Richard Frederick said he had spoken to the residents and they were rather pleased about the project. Nonetheless, he took the opportunity to encourage them to embrace the project and treat it as their own. He went on to say that Derek Walcott is one man who has categorically refuted the notion that from where one hails will determine one’s destiny and, as such, he advised the gathering that each person, irrespective of their background, can make a contribution in their respective fields.
Secretary to Cabinet, Darrel Montrope apologized on behalf of the Prime Minister, Dr. Kenny Anthony, who was unable to attend. In the Prime Minister’s remarks, as delivered by Montrope, reference was made to ‘Grass Street and Later Memories’ by Cletus Springer and ‘Omeros’ by Derek Walcott.
The gathering was then wooed by the talented Barbara Cadet who soulfully and passionately performed an instrumental excerpt from “Tom Fool” and “Shason Marie Anne”.
The Governor General began her remarks by saying that through the poetry recited earlier and Cadet’s refreshing performance, the audience got a taste of the vibrancy, music and art that the project hopes to revive in the community. She went on to say that the arts can help to provide employment and that she anticipates the project can transform the space into a place of hope and honour.
She then made her way over to a plot of land adjacent to the Walcott House and turned the sod, thereby declaring the official inauguration of the Walcott Place Project.
Thereafter, Calypsonian, Robbie Calixte (who is originally from Grass Street) brought several of the attendees to their feet as he performed his motivating and original piece, “I’m Gonna Make It”. In the end the Director of the SLNT, Mr. Bishnu Tulsie took the opportunity to thank the Government of Saint Lucia, the Taiwanese, the Governor General, all the government Ministries, the RSLPF the Walcott Family and the residents of the community for their continued support. He reiterated the fact that Chaussée Road and environs has given many heroes to Saint Lucia and perhaps it is the Walcott Place Project that will inspire the residents, especially the children, to aspire to achieve greatness.
The following Saturday, January 24, there was a gathering at the Pigeon Island National Landmark for the corporate launch of the Walcott Place Project. Similar to the sod-turning ceremony, the proceeding was held under the auspices of the Governor General of Saint Lucia and Patron of the Saint Lucia National Trust, Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy. It was an evening laced with heartwarming and melodious performances by Elra Ermay, Barbara Cadet, Ronald “Boo” Hinkson and Manmay La Kay.
A tribute to Roderick Walcott by Mr. MacDonald Dixon gave greater insight into the life and works of both brothers. Thereafter, an insightful video biography of the Walcott brothers was shared with the gathering. A concise PowerPoint presentation, which served to cement the information contained in the SLNT Fundraising Prospectus given to the invitees, was done by SLNT Councillor, Mr. Calixte George Jr.
Remarks were also made by Taiwanese Ambassador, His Excellency James Chang, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Port Services andTransport, Honourable Philip J. Pierre and Dame Pearlette Louisy, who chairs the Walcott Place Advisory Committee.
In his remarks, the Acting Prime Minister encouraged Corporate Saint Lucia and all citizens to step up and donate to this worthwhile initiative.
Direct donations can be made to Bank of Saint Lucia account number 933313673 – Saint Lucia National Trust – Walcott Place Account; on the SLNT website: http://slunatrust.org/programmes-projects/pp-the-walcott-place-project or by contacting the SLNT: 452 5005 or email email@example.com.