The Legislative Assembly discussed a plan to create a core group of full-time salaried performers to provide entertainment based on Caymanian culture for tourists and residents.
Backbench MLA Alfonso Wright brought the subject to the House by way of a Private Member’s Motion that called the Government to create the programme in conjunction with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation.
‘I believe that as a tourist destination… we are probably one of the only islands within this region that doesn’t express ourselves in a cultural way as many of our neighbours do,’ Mr. Wright said. ‘We seem to don’t pay any more attention to the things that made us uniquely who we are.’
Mr. Wright said when tourists come to the Cayman Islands they hope to find local culture.
‘And when they visit our tourist properties they all find people who are speaking different languages from us and they leave without experiencing any of what I would consider local Caymanian culture.’
Mr. Wright suggested retirees could make good members of the troupe.
‘We have been talking in the country about finding employment for people who are over 60,’ he said. ‘I think that these are people that we can turn to… They are matured individuals who know exactly what [Caymanian culture] is all about.’
Mr. Wright said government should not bear the entire cost of the initiative and that the private sector must help pay for it.
‘My plan here is to see us organise this core group of entertainers who the Ritz-Carlton could contract with the National Cultural Foundation and say ‘we want [the performance troupe] for three months and we are going to play them twice a week. You give us a price’.’
Mr. Wright envisioned the troupe doing performances at other big hotels like the Westin and Marriott on other nights, either performing the same thing or different acts.
Minister of Tourism Charles Clifford accepted the motion on behalf of the Government, saying that the troupe would help develop Cayman’s tourism product.
Mr. Clifford said the missing component of Cayman’s tourism product over the years had been cultural tourism.
‘But in order for us to ensure that our people are involved and committed to this and that we are able to achieve the objectives that are set out in this motion, we have to put some funding behind it,’ he said. ‘It is not possible for individuals to have full-time jobs and to also be expected to be at hotel establishments for three and four hours every night. We have to make sure that we put the funding behind this programme that will allow individuals to see this, not as a part-time job, but as a career…’
Mr. Clifford said the troupe could travel with government officials when they go to various conferences and meetings overseas.
‘I don’t believe that it is something we should have strictly focused on performances in our own country, but we should also understand the value in taking that culture overseas and helping people to understand what it is to be Caymanian and what they can experience when they visit our shores,’ he said.
Minister of Culture Alden McLaughlin said the government had already given the motion careful consideration.
‘My Ministry has had discussions with the Cayman National Cultural Foundation about what could be done fairly quickly to ensure that we do meet the objects or objectives of the motion,’ he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said that he, along with Tourism Minister Clifford, would bring the necessary proposal outlining the broad terms of the programme to Cabinet within the next few weeks, which would pave the way for the necessary funding to occur.
Although not all of the details have been worked out, Mr. McLaughlin shared some of what he envisioned for the troupe.
‘The company will comprise, at least, initially, eight to 10 full-time members, although we are not suggesting that that number could not be increased if they were suitable additional persons who were willing to become involved,’ he said. ‘This would comprise a number of performers, actors, dancers, musicians.
In addition to performers, the troupe would require creative and administrative personnel, including a stage director, company manager, chorographer, and a stage manager,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
‘The Cultural Foundation has spent quite some time working out how this would actually be structured and staffed,’ he said. ‘The company would offer ongoing internships for two high school or college students, so as to provide additional training for youth who have the requisite interest, discipline and talent in the arts. ‘
Addition part-time personnel would be added when the need arose,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.
‘Among the production elements being envisioned are folklore and storytelling; fiddling and drumming; quadrille and maypole dancing; enacting traditional pastimes such as fishing, kitchen dances and weddings; contemporary Caymanian music and dance such as steel pan, jazz and reggae fusion and lyrical dance; and Batabano type costumes and spectacle.’
As for timing, Mr. McLaughlin said the government contemplated the programme would be fully implemented within 10 months of Cabinet approval and that the target for the premiere of the company was November 2009.