Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, says the restoration of the historic Ward Theatre is pivotal to the government’s efforts to preserve the nation’s cultural heritage.
“I think, as a people, we need to respect our culture, and traditions as the Ward stand as a symbol of excellence. It is extremely important, not only to Kingston but to Jamaica. It represents the best of some of our cultural performances, a lot of our stellar achievements have been done right here…and so we need to respect and protect our heritage,” the Minister stated.
She was speaking to JIS News on May 2 following a tour of the theatre located downtown Kingston.
The Minister was accompanied by Mayor of Kingston, Senator Angela Brown Burke; Town Clerk, Errol Greene and other personnel from the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) and the Ministry.
Ms. Hanna commended the Ward Theatre Foundation, under the leadership of the late Ruby Martin and the KSAC for the ongoing improvement efforts.
She said the government recognises the need to put the facility on firm footing through restoration and sustainable maintenance in collaboration with the various partners. She said that there are some needs that have to be addressed in the short-term, including termite control, repairing of windows, and drain cleaning.
While unable to give a cost for the restoration of the facility, Mayor of Kingston, Senator Angela Brown Burke, said meetings will be held with the relevant stakeholders to determine the best way forward. “(At that time) we will have the experts do the costing,” she said.
In the meantime, Minister Hanna said sensitising residents about the importance of the facility is an area, which will be examined. “If you even look out at the front, it’s a little sad to see what has been done to it,” she said.
Located in the heart of Kingston, the Ward is the only theatre of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean.
At a price tag of £12,000, it is built in a classical style, standing 121 feet east to west, occupying 60,000 cubic feet, with a stage area of 2.146 square feet, and seats over 800.
Built at a time when the city of Kingston was recreating itself after the devastation of the 1907 earthquake and many buildings (commercial and ecclesiastical) were commissioned abroad e.g. Holy Trinity Cathedral, the Ward speaks to the ingenuity and depth of local talent.
The facility, which was declared a national monument in January 7, 2000, has a long history encompassing the nation’s social, cultural and political spheres.
The Ward is also where both the People’s National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) were launched on September 18, 1938 and July 8, 1943 respectively.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter