Former Jazz Promoter aids cause to rescue Barbados Heritage: Gilbert Rowe offers free infrastructure for any Fundraising Concerts to renovate Empire Theatre

What started as a Facebook group has now generated into a full movement to ensure Bridgetown retains its standard as a World Heritage Site, “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” an obvious play on the George Lucas sci-fi blockbuster from the 80’s, while having 500 signatories in its mailing list drew over 200 hardcore members of the local entertainment scene who arrived at the Boatyard in person -singers; producers; actors; cameramen; producers; playwrights and spoken word performance artistes among other genres of this community…

Gilbert Melford Rowe points out how Cuba looks at Culture first then its people then everything else, he feels Barbados could use some of that type of philosophy to prevent similar incidents from happening again

One of the main instigators of this movement, Canadian Jim McGowan of Beat Studio, was conspicuously absent – it was pointed out since his is one of three proposals on consideration by the Barbados Government and he is also not a Bajan, he may have felt discretion was the better part of valour.

Tamara Marshall made her presence known despite the lack of her significant other, Jim McGowan, who is making a bid to restore the decaying historical landmark

There were many in the Facebook group who felt he could have privately distanced himself from the movement rather than the last-minute public bowing out quite a few saw as a cop-out fearing Government reprisals, some even referred to the would-be refurbisher as “JIM McSELLOUT” however it was of interest to note that his longtime companion Tamara Marshall still appeared in her own right as a Bajan entertainer.

A cross section of generations and Cultural professions were at Bay Street in force

Mikey Hulsmeier, a music producer who has worked with Maxi priest and many other Caribbean & International singers of note, started the group mainly on the advice of Barbados Undergrounda local blog which some feel was racially or politically charged but now seeking to streamline its reputation {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Hulsmeier did not know if this was why the dead tree media saw the Facebook Group as a negative force, but it was never intended as a protest movement…

Former "Splashband" member Mikey Hulsmeier at left with John Roett, one of "The Brothers" a popular 70's band in Barbados

The young musician who sang a hit reggae tune with then Jan Gibson in the early 90’s also realises some view him as a loose cannon, which he disputes since he could not be a successful producer for 24 years if he was undisciplined {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Hulsmeier explained how he was verbally abused and accused of racism, and no respecter of authority.

Part of the actors and actresses who showed support as well.

Many people came forward and offered their advice but chief among them was ex-B’dos Jazz Festival impresario, Gilbert Melford Rowe, who wished to see deeds not speeches and therefore made a concrete proposal to galvanise participants that day {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Provided a concert is to raise money for rebuilding the Empire Theatre, then Gilbert will provide infrastructure free, no labour costs nor VAT.

The victim at the centre of the drama

Although present in his capacity as a citizen, nevertheless UWI Historian Dr Karl Watson says the National Trust is very interested in the latest effort to see the Empire return to its former prominence {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

Dr Watson tried to invite a noted Bajan to attend but they made it clear they’re not a Protestor and he did his best to allay that concern…

The UWI Historian fears vagrants may destroy more buildings of Historic value before people can set about rescuing them, he hinted the homeless could be used as security for the buildings and include them rather than try and dispose of the vagrants, who may then seek a fiery revenge

The Historian also wants similar efforts down the road to be given equally vigourous attention {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

He pointed out how both the Queen’s Park Theatre and the Daphne Joseph Hackett Theatre also need revamping, although both edifices are not as derelict as the Empire which was built in 1922.

Former CEO of the NCF, Antonio “Boo” Rudder, said a study was done before and since it was a while ago – it may cost further than the previous estimate {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

The original estimate was 12 million dollars and now with inflation it may well be at least 20 million!

Many folk liked DJ Simmons' shirt, read it!

Rudder also told the Boatyard posse says if those presents are dedicated to restoring the Empire, they must know a particular message is being sent {CLICK ON FOLLOWING LINK FOR FULL AUDIO};-

The project is a labour of love and must state the Culture is essential for all Barbadians!

As if to confirm these sentiments, poet DJ Simmons came forward and made a pledge…

He was one of two Boo's to chat, and not as bombastic as he usually is?

The spoken wordist says with the blessing of his collaborator Adrian Green they plan to have show in the near future where the entire proceeds will go forward to help rebuild the Probyn Square monument which is eroding constantly.

Da Luciano's Ristorante Italiano and the Ocan View in Hastings went the way of the bulldozer, let's make sure the same mistake does not happen again?

Those present then sauntered over from Boatyard to the one time cinema, popular for Kung Fu and “Lemon Popsicle” (‘American Pie‘s’ forebear) pictures over many weekends, and held a site visit outside of the property now under heavy lock and key.

A segment of the multitude which went to visit the old cinema, hoping it can be a beacon for all Bajan Culture once more

Bajan Reporter hopes not only Sir Cliff Richard or Kyffin Simpson or Bizzy Williams will be approached as potential benefactors, but what about the next time Simon Cowell pops around? If ye olde “American Idol” considers investing with the Empire, then it may be a better plan than the Four Seasons he sought to get a Villa from?

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  1. The turn-out at The Boatyard was indeed a good one. Members from all sides of the creative core of Barbados…there to show their own particular stand on the Empire matter and to be there for their brothers who could not for unforeseen reasons…like work because in order to make a month, creative people seem to have to do this day and night! No problem ’cause we love it. There is much more respect due to us…but if we as Barbadians cannot respect history…how can we respect our present and therefore ourselves? The time has come for us to stand up and be counted and The Empire is a must. I praise those who managed to get UNESCO involved in deeming Bridgetown and The Garrison area as a Heritage Site ’cause perhaps now at least this part of Barbados will have the benefit of being protected.

    But ….what we do not want…well certainly I do not want…is to see The Empire brought back to bettah than its former glory only to be put under the same governing bodies and infrastructure of our other *creative venues* that because of high costs of running, have in themselves become impossible for the average creative person to even begin to afford…either to perform or attend for that matter.

    At the meeting yesterday, I was particularly motivated (as I am sure all of us were) by Mr. Gilbert Rowe’s *giving back to his supporters* with his pledge. I hope that very soon the creative people of this island can begin the fund raising for The Empire with a blast of a show like no other…Mr. Rowe’s words now give no reason as to why such a fund-raising event cannot happen. It is now up to us. I believe that if every painter donates one painting, every actor donates time to show a small play, every singer/musician donates time and music (how about a CD/video with all singing!), every poet a poem…we could produce a show that just might bring in more money than ever towards The Empire becoming the people’s forum again.

    My pledge is: I am prepared to write a small book with photography….I need stories from people who have had any kind of connection to The Empire Theatre. I need photos too. I need historic photos, even of the vaudeville days, if there are any. I can put together a collection of historic/humorous right up to the day The Empire closed its doors stories….in a beautifully presented book…I will even try to get sponsorship for printing….and have this book sold worldwide through my website and other such websites/the community of artists/the restaurants/hotels/bookstores/islandwide shops…with all monies going to the fund.

    A small pledge but it is a beginning. A pledge that requires the blessing of the group. And the help of course. There is much to be discussed.

    Later…once The Empire is restored…a gorgeous picture of the new Empire can be placed on the back of same!

    I am sure yesterday’s feeling of togetherness will remain intact for a long time. Bless.

    …and Ian your coverage is tops!

    Mikey Foster Hulzmeier..(hope that is spelt right! *smile*) (as well as John Roett) must be commended, whether some like it or not, for motivating creative people (my father artist Gordon Parkinson taught me that ALL people are creative) of all colours and creeds to walk the road to the Empire. It will happen! Why? Because it has to. Bless.


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