Festival chief calls for cultural centre

A Cayman Arts Festival director has
called for the establishment of a major arts centre to enhance and develop
culture in the Cayman Islands.

Jennifer Micallef, speaking to the
Caymanian Compass following this year’s successful festival, said that it was essential
to establish a designated larger facility to boost the future of the arts.

“It’s a huge disadvantage as it
doesn’t put Cayman on the cultural map. Cayman has everything from top schools
to great shops but by not having a cultural centre there are basic problems.”

Miss Micallef said that the lack of
a centralised box office, for example, had led to logistical problems that
required constant monitoring.

“We had five or six outlets for
tickets so we had to go through the whole ticketing system with people who are
used to selling their own product, not our product. We have had hundreds of
emails from them querying elements such as taking cheques from customers. It’s
a huge problem.”

She said that the lack of a box
office required volunteers to be sent to each sponsor office to co-ordinate
their tickets too.

Tourism

Miss Micallef says she has
travelled the world and seen the difference an arts or cultural centre can make
to the smallest of places where the infrastructure or economy may not be up to
high standards. It has an impact on tourism, she observed.

“It not only brings people together
but brings people from outside the town or city because people want to see a
certain event or show. It makes it accessible not only to the local people but
to the foreigners coming in.

“We get a lot of emails before,
during and after the festival asking about our next event. People are obviously
holidaying on the island and they are desperate to do something else instead of
sea and sand or going to Stingray
City.

“They want to go to a show in the
evening. If Cayman had a cultural centre it would be helpful for Cayman Arts
Festival and I’m sure people on the island would welcome it openly – it would
be a great thing for Cayman.”

She said that holidaymakers and
locals alike would benefit from such a centre.

Demand

The demand was there, the pianist
said, as shown by the near-capacity audience of expats and Caymanians for the
final night of Cayman Arts Fest, 2010. It was collaboration between the
Jamaican Immaculate Conception school orchestra and young Caymanian musicians.

“We had a lot of local people turn
up. It was hugely important and they came with their children – in Europe you normally would not see so many children in a
classical concert which is a huge advantage for Cayman. Clearly the parents
want their children to be open to cultural events – not just going to the beach
or school.

“A quarter of the audience on Saturday
and probably 20 to 30 per cent at the Rainer Hersch ACME concert (Friday) were
children. The parents want their children to be part of the festival – they’re
not necessarily as exposed as one would be if they were living in Europe or America,” continued
the pianist.

She gave the example of the small
town of Duisburg in Germany,
which had no real industry or economic aspects to speak of but has become an
important hub for cultural events due to events at its arts centre which
attracts visitors from all over Europe.

Trinidad

“Trinidad
has just built a multi-million dollar arts centre – it’s all over the front
pages of all the cultural magazines and it puts a small place really on the
cultural map. And people will want to go there and see certain shows,” continued
Miss Micallef.
As well as a concert hall, that facility also has a music library and practice
rooms, which she said provides an opportunity to learn and become ‘part of the
building’.

“It’s something that Cayman could
quite easily do as there’s the infrastructure and the economy is stronger than
many other places in the world that already have concert halls. People pay so
much money to go to big shows in Las
Vegas but there would be no need if the centre, the
funding and the running [of a Cayman arts centre] was right.”

Harquail Theatre

She said that the Harquail Theatre
was a ‘good start’ and that Cayman Arts Festival had utilised the theatre for
previous events but its 300-seat capacity was not big enough to house some of
the events that could be accommodated by a designated larger venue.

For example, the 2008 events String
Fever and 2006’s appearance by Harlem Gospel Choir both attracted a thousand
people to First Baptist Church,
causing logistical problems.

Miss Micallef pointed to the appearance
by Back Beat at Harquail in 2004 as an example of ticket demand far
outstripping supply.

“The tickets were so valuable they
were like gold dust. I didn’t even have one for myself – it was crazy. People
were calling, desperate for tickets, there was a huge line outside for returns
and a couple of fights broke out.”

Basic

The musician and festival director
said that Harquail was a basic theatre and that an arts centre would have to
look at acoustics, staging, instrument storage and storage of sets for any
plays plus facilities for teaching, practice rooms and green rooms.

“The better an arts centre is the
higher the quality of artistry one can bring over. [With the current venues] I
have to tell musicians they don’t have their own green room, bathroom or place
to hang their clothes. I have to call a friend and borrow a mirror for the
artist – all these things present a problem.”

She concluded that Cayman needed an
arts centre, because every time a school event took place it has attracted over
a thousand of children wanting to become involved with the arts, not all of
whom could be currently accommodated.

 “A place with Cayman, with the kind of
community that it has, should have an arts centre for the children, for the
community, for the schools.

“We’re trying to give everybody an
opportunity to be involved with Cayman Arts Festival. If there was an arts
centre we’d be able to accommodate more kids and more parents,” said Micallef.

1 COMMENT

  1. I have 2 questions for Ms. Micallef. Where are these “top schools” that she mentions, and secondly where is the funding to come from for the development of the Cultural Centre?

    It’s is unfortunte that this is the reality, but until we can find someone that can better manage our government we will not see developments such as this come to fruition.

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