veteran entertainer believes b’dos can do much better with export of its culture

by Latoya Burnham

There is great export potential in the arts in Barbados that should be exploited, and one artist who says he is leaving the stage to help move development along from behind the scenes wants to see stakeholders step up and take charge.

Veteran entertainer John King told Barbados TODAY that too many artists were being created in Barbados, virtually out of nothing and moving on making money for other countries and leaving the island behind.

He said there was no reason why talent born here could not take elements of the country along to help create needed jobs and foreign exchange, if the arts were properly managed.

Using Rihanna as an example, King said while she was the biggest name in music from Barbados, the country should have been in a position where when she or “the next big thing” to come out of the island travelled that the entourage supporting her and working with and for her is comprised of locals.

That, he said, was the evolution of the industry.

“We have been exporting talent… We have done it with sportsmen, everything, and Barbados does not benefit. We have been doing everything except harnessing it and developing it for ourselves. To me that is the biggest travesty.

“Leh we suppose a Rihanna, or somebody on that scale employs like 13 people on a daily basis. You see any from Barbados? Not one. So you have to put yourself in a position where, if for instance some youngster from somewhere happens to be the next person to jump out in the limelight of the world, we have to be able to say her lawyer is such and such from Barbados, her designers, marketing, publicist from Barbados. All of these are branch out areas of economics that you have to be able to develop,” argued King, who said he plans to begin next year working behind the scenes to see how he can help develop the industry outside of performing.

He added: “I would love to see the powers that be, from a governmental level take the initiative and start doing the things that need to be done to make the arts more popular in Barbados, a bit more accessible to the general public and sustainable for the people involved because it has great export potential.”

The industry has not feared well, he noted, with declines in tourism, with bands fading away and new talent with nowhere to showcase what they can do.

“I have sat down and watched, let’s take music for example, bands just wilt away and it is not just the hotels. The hotels play their part, but the nightlife of Barbados outside of the hotels, you see all the clubs closed. So what are all these young musicians who are coming up to do?

“They are getting no support from the younger generations who ain’t come along gine out and seeing bands, they are into DJs. So what are these young musicians to do? And if the generation before them can’t get together to do anything, how will they get people to come out and see them and have an audience to play for? It is going to be virtually impossible.

“That is why I continue to say that people who lead must have more vision than the average person in the street. You come into a leadership position you must be able to see how do we attack unemployment, especially for younger people coming up.

“How do we use the arts as part of our development to cross-section and rehabilitate some of the boys on de block? How do we use the arts in our health care system like they do in Canada and the [United] States where poets and musicians go into wards and help the people who are terminally ill? How do you do it?”

Too much about the arts, everything from music, to poetry, to fine art and craft, theatre, animation and cinematography, he said, he believed was being taken for granted. As a result they were being pushed aside and everything was centred on Crop-Over and competition, which he said was not necessarily the best developmental environment.

“Arts can’t flourish in competition. It doesn’t need a competition. You should be able to appreciate and accept a piece of art for what it is, art.”

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