Kingston’s mayor excited about Ward Theatre restoration
After years of talk about the restoration of the Ward Theatre, Kingston's Mayor, Delroy Williams, is happy to see it coming to fruition.
Those avidly following the mayor's social media posts would have seen the government senator mingling amid the dust and grime in the belly of the Ward.
Weeks ago, he updated his social media following with some images of people installing the theatre sound system.
The Ward's restoration is symbolic of a particular mission - a mandate of the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation (KSAMC) to nurture creativity within young people - and channel that creativity into problem-solving.
"When we started to do Ward Theatre, that was heavy on our minds. They use the theatre to communicate issues, problems and solutions. We're thinking, let's create a generation of young persons within the municipality who are problem-solving oriented. That is not something that happens overnight. The society's creativity has to be nurtured. So it is important for us to continue to nurture the creativity within the society. It is that creativity that is important in solving problems," he said.
Now, Williams shared that the renovations are at a critical point.
"We have started to put in sound in the theatre. We are now finalising the air conditioning - we have the funding for that. But we're basically in the process of consulting, before we proceed. We have been seeking advice," he said.
Electricians have started working to restore power to the theatre.
"At the same time, we are in the process of engaging for the rigging system - that has to do with the stage," he said. Repair of some special, decorative tin carvings are also under way.
He also revealed that new seating for the theatre has long arrived in the island
"We've been waiting a long time for them, we have been informed that the seats are there. That's good news," he said.
As he celebrates the progress, Williams is cognisant that the road to the end is a long one. The theatre was a Labour Day project in 2017.
"For us, it's a tedious process because of how we have to be financing the Ward. It's not as if we have a pool of funds that we can just go out and enter into contractual arrangements. We go along and secure funding - then do it again. But that has been going well so far," he said.
Classified as a national monument under the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Act, the Ward Theatre stands as being representative of centuries-long theatrical practice in Jamaica.
"The Ward as it is now was erected some time in 1908 or thereabout. But the space has been a theatre space since the 1750s. That's a lot of history. Buildings have come and gone, but the space remains a theatre space," Williams shared.
In the long run, the KSAMC intends to extend their restoration projects throughout downtown Parade.
"That space where the Ward is - all the way around the parade to Big Tree - where there is St William Grant Park, Hope Methodist Church, Kingston Parish Church, Jubilee Market, close by is the Liberty Hall, the Houses of Parliament, is loaded with history. There will be monuments, restoration, beautification. The Ward Theatre is the beginning of that restorative work," he said.
He added: "We have to restore that place so that we have a sense of pride - and a sense of our history and where we're coming from, and to learn from it."