Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A musical heritage walk to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network

Sharing our National Happiness
 Musical Heritage Walk to launch Pilot UNESCO Creative Cities Network inititive in Port of Spain

They say you are never too old to learn. This week, I learnt to clap.. Here’s the three-step method of clapping:
1.       You clap as fast as you can and faster than the person next to you;
2.       You clap with your whole body;
3.       You say some pleasantries about which you are clapping.
So let’s try that and applaud all those who have brought us to this stage for the launch of this pilot musical heritage walk as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative for Port of Spain - becausewe are happiest people on earth, right?

Honourable Minister of Community Development and Acting Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism, Winston Gypsy Peters - one of our veteran calypsonian and certainly part of the musical heritage of Trinidad and Tobago…. Friends in the culture fraternity; other distinguished citizens, friends all.

Isn’t it remarkable that at a time that brings out the worst in us – as election ‘silly season’ seems to do - , we can find the time and a space like this at the iconic Casablanca Steelpan Yard here in Belmont, to celebrate the best in us.
I can only begin to describe the pleasure and sense of fulfilment in being able to open this first step of Trinidad and Tobago musical walk towards engaging with the UNESCO creative cities network – and to do that here, in Belmont one of Trinidad and Tobago’s most talented, most accomplished, most diverse district - a microcosm of the people and cultural achievements of Trinidad and Tobago.
The launch today of the Musical Belmont walk is just a small first step towa
rds an incredible journey of becoming a member of a UNESCO global partnership that networks cities around the world, all representing and all sharing a common goal for developing urban areas and harnessing their cultural diversity for sustainable development.
This creative cities initiative is one of the flagship projects of the Trinidad and Tobago National Commission for UNESCO. It began with a small grant from UNESCO, to seed an initiative, but which we hope to multiply in value as only we in Trinidad and Tobago can do, and I here invite partners and sponsors to work with us and now you, the community who must now own this initiative, to moving this forward.
Author of LiTTscapes, Dr Kris Rampersad
conducts custommade LiTTour for Diplomats 
Let us look closer at two phrases that we keep hearing here today: Culture in Development and Sustainable Development: We know, do we not, what it means to do a whole lot with very little. The steelband and creative cultural heritage sect
or have been providing food and clothing, sustaining families and communities and regenerating and recycling and recreating – using the very little it gets to generate so much – that is really those words mean, so, realy, no one can teach us about that; we know what it means when we say culture drives our development, if only others recognise that and invest in this so we could do so much more.
A few years ago, Minister Gypsy and I were in Bali for a UNESCO meeting on Intangible Cultural Heritage. We witnessed first hand how culture forms the driving force of an entire nation; every industry – agriculture, textiles, tourism, arts and craft, transport, being pushed by the culture and heritage of the people of Bali who are happy with their identity so other people around the world flock to them to share in their happiness.
Don’t we consider ourselves the happiest people in the world? How can we better share that? By making the people in culture happy; by engaging other sectors to recognise the value and benefit of utilsising ourcultural resources to enhance progress and development.
Many years ago studying in Cambridge, in the UK, on a weekend getaway to the Bloomsbury James Joyce Literary Festival in Dublin Ireland which is already a UNESCO Creative City of Literature, I was awed by the limitless possibilities a city can offer to its creative practitioners! What a stimulant to business and commercial interests! What an oasis of stability and communality for citizens! For theatre groups! For restauranteurs and the food and entertainment sectors, to taxi drivers and the transport and tourism industries and for people proud of their heritage and creativity!
Dr Kris Rampersad, author of LiTTscapes
 conduct a LiTTour through Sangre Grande
 with district scouts and local government officials.
LiTtours by Request only 
For Ireland, its trolls and leprechauns, its pub culture, its Guinness, its ballads and music that extol the wonders in the story of the Irish people – all jumped to life to any wanderer, as I was, who become an active participant in the city’s creative energy and a contributor to its economic and social well being.
Needless to say, every taxi, every hotel and bed and breakfast and cottage offering homestays was full, which meant farmers could be assured of a market for their produce, cultural workers had a outlet for their talents, those feeling alienated and marginalised felt a sense of pride and belonging in the importance of being Irish. That’s what we mean when we talk of culture-centred development.
Wandering through hundreds of walks, since: sometimes with map-in-hand, sometimes randomly, through cities of Europe and Asia and Latin America and absorbing well articulated signage, or even some of the finer technologies of the new age as this QR code now offers, I knew that with only a few tweaks, how easy it could be for Trinidad and Tobago to open its cities and districts to that kind of appreciation by we, its citizens in the first instance, as well as to those who venture to wander in from outside.
I dreamed of being able to roam through the city of Port of Spain in like manner; to open up to our own citizens in the first instance, and indeed the world, our remarkable contribution to the world of cultures:  our sumptuous multicultural cuisine; our multicultural faiths; our inspiring literary heritage, and indeed our unique confluence of musical traditions which we have tuned to such finest as to make it our best.
As we dream and bring into being this creative city, the Port of Spain UNESCO Creative City of Music – nice ring to it, ent? – and as I said we have only begun the journey with this musical walk, we still have many of the nuts and bolts to put in place which requires involvements and engagement of man others -   let us stretch our imagination to how the musical heritage of this city exemplifies the full potential of all that our creativity as an island of Trinidad and Tobago represents.
What does it mean to be a UNESCO Creative City and to belong to the UNESCO Creative City Network?
It provides an opportunity to:
highlight our city’s cultural assets on a global platform
make creativity an essential element of local economic and social development
build local capacity and train local cultural actors in business skills
share knowledge across cultural clusters around the world
cultivate innovation through the exchange of know-how, experiences and best practices
promote diverse cultural products in national and international markets
create new opportunities for cooperation and partnership with other cities
exchange know-how and develop local creative industries on a global platform…

Really, it means we are on our way to join a network that would help us improve and expand on producing and enjoyment of our unique creative, cultural and heritage experiences; to spread our national happiness!
The Creative Cities Network offers access to resources and experiences to all member cities as a means to promote the development of their local creative industries, as well as and to foster worldwide cooperation for sustainable urban development.
How fitting it is, then, that Belmont is the starting point for us - this most cosmopolitan of districts; so representative of the diversity of cultures and races and colours and creative energy of our country, so connected as it is to the legendary – yes legendary - music that we have created and presented to the world in the steel pan instrument - to become the first step, a musical walk towards global celebration of the creative heritage of Trinidad and Tobago.
This musical heritage walk also encompasses recognition of national icons: as from which fertile soil has sprung some of our national pioneers and leaders: the first Preside
nt of Trinidad and Tobago: Sir Ellis Clarke and early legislator Sir Hugh Wooding. The bandleaders, pan men, musicians and singers, artists and writers and religious and sports leadership: Wayne Berkeley, Cheryl Byron, Leroy Clarke, Jason Griffith, Ken Morris, David Rudder, Kathleen Warner, Mavis John; Janet Bailey, Gerry Browne, Carlton Byer, Bryan Davis, Daniel James.
That is not an exhaustive list. I can think of, and I am sure you can too, many more and we hope we can recognise them as well…
As we begin this walk from Casablanca panyard, shortly, through to other panyards in this district Belmont Fifth Dimension and Pan Demonium Steel orchestra, let as think of how the one note they sound resonate through this city and the rest of the country, throughout the Caribbean and across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. That exemplifies UNESCO’s vision for its creative cities network – creativity inspiring people to come together to celebrate their creative contributions to generating peace in the minds of men and women.
If we glance upward to the hotel, up there, the Trinidad Hilton the site of the first British Governor’s House we should also cast back to its significance to our first peoples.
As we wander into the area’s representation churches: Roman Catholic, Anglican and Wesleyan and the Orisha Yard of the Rada Community, in this first phase but when we cast wider to also appreciate the unique brand of religion that exemplify our multicultural faiths; our fashion, design and cuisine, - the charming architecture of Belmont, represented throughout the quaint gingerbread and ornate latticework that incorporate elements of indigeneous mud huts.
This is a first step to stimulating development of the infrastructure for the support mechanisms for the creative heritage sector and already we have here, TUCO – the Trinbago Unified Calyposonian Organisation, Pan Trinbago, the Carnival Institute, the Remember When Institute, the Government through the Ministries of Education, the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism. Let us work now to make this a network; to grow linkages and ties; to understand the interconnections between the activities of all sectors.
From this spot, let us envision our creative city statehood that encompasses the eco system of creative music of Trinidad and Tobago, encompassing and embracing the creators, the recording industry, the technologies and the network that connects the rest of the city of Port of Spain, other suburban districts and the city center – from the Beetham to St James and surrounding districts too….
Creative cities are driven by the districts, and localised government, the city council and national government and other community partners including public/private sectors, professional organizations, civil societies, cultural institutions, business organisations, churches, schools, and all in between.
Thanks to the enormous effort of all those who have brought us to this stage, from within the National Commission, the Ministry, the community organisations and most importantly the people of these communities.
What a walk towards national harmony, national respect, national recognition and appreciation we are initiating here! Let us make the dream real and let us dream of unreeling this in other dimensions to other communities and districts and indeed the wider world.
I invite you to join us in this creative musical heritage walk through Belmont and work with us to advance our trip to UNESCO Creative City status and I thank you all for being here to participate in this memorable momentous launch.

Open Remarks by Dr Kris Rampersad
Chair of the National Commission for UNESCO

and Trinidad and Tobago Representative on the UNESCO Executive Board, at Launch of Musical Heritage Walk of Belmont. March 26, 2015, Casablanca Steel Orchestra Pan Theatre, Belmont, Port of Spain

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