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Guarding our past

Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, accepting a picture of the commemorative stamps from Postmaster General Joel Brathwaite, while President of the Barbados National Trust, Dr. Karl Watson, looks on.

Cabinet will soon receive a paper recommending the establishment of a task force that will be charged with the responsibility of assisting Government with the sourcing of funds to restore historic buildings.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, who said the document was “at a very advanced stage”. He was addressing a ceremony yesterday at the General Post Office, where a commemorative stamp issue was unveiled for the 50th anniversary of the Barbados National Trust and Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison.

Lashley said: “I am very anxious to have that … process concretised and approved. I believe that paper will be going before Cabinet very shortly and we can get that task force going, [since] that is a very critical part of our policy initiative to ensure we have a sustained programme for the rehabilitation of our buildings.”

While addressing the gathering earlier, President of the Barbados National Trust, Dr. Karl Watson, bemoaned the closure of the building at Coleridge Street which formerly housed the Public Library. He said the fate of that building rested, not merely with the ministry, or with Government, but with all Barbadians who must be responsible for their heritage.

However, Lashley admitted that there were a number of buildings in Barbados, including the Public Library, that had not received the necessary attention over the years.

“I have said to the ministry that we have to look very candidly at a programme of restoration and most importantly, a programme of maintenance, where the Government, working along with our private sector and international partners, ensure that buildings such as the library and others … across Barbados receive the kind of attention that they ought to.”

He told his audience that since the inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in June 2011, many persons had visited Barbados.

“There is a niche for world heritage tourism; it’s a driver of new business and new opportunities, and I believe that will continue. What we have to do now is work assiduously to ensure that once visitors are in Barbados, that our world heritage property has the kind of business focus and entrepreneurial opportunities that we can earn valuable foreign exchange from it,” he suggested.

Lashley pointed out that a number of young persons were currently being trained as tour guides within the historic property and stressed this was extremely important for continuity.

The set of commemorative stamps depict the Gun Hill Signal Station, where a fascinating collection of military memorabilia is housed; the Clock Tower at the Garrison Savannah, which was built in 1804; St. Mary’s Church in Bridgetown, which was built on one of the oldest consecrated grounds in the English colonies in the Americas; and the Public Library, which was constructed of coral stone and built in the English Renaissance style at the turn of the 20th century.

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