A Par­a­digm Shift . . . A New Cas­tries

DREAM­ERS AND VI­SION­AR­IES (Part Two)

The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT - By Peter Josie

Art, whether the­atre, mu­sic, paint­ing or sculp­ture, is im­por­tant be­cause it helps ex­plain our­selves to us. We learn from the soul of the artist to laugh at our foibles and idio­syn­cra­sies; to dis­cern that which con­nects the hu­man spirit to the heart of the divine and to reach for some­thing more grand and noble within.

The new Cas­tries with its cul­tural com­plexes and courts, en­vi­sioned by its dream­ers and thinkers, should be a thing of beauty – a liv­ing land­scaped gar­den that up­lifts the hu­man spirit. It needs to be more func­tional and less con­gested than presently. The vi­sion is based on three sim­ple premises: the need to ease con­ges­tion; to cre­ate a more func­tional liv­ing space and en­hance the gen­eral am­biance whilst lift­ing the hu­man spirit of cit­i­zens and visitors alike. The new de­sign ought to be as­signed to per­sons who are dis­in­ter­ested in per­sonal fi­nan­cial gain, not to politi­cians with no vi­sion, and their hun­gry hacks.

It is gen­er­ally ac­cepted by those who care that the city of Cas­tries needs help. There is am­ple ev­i­dence that some politi­cians and tech­nocrats within this and past gov­ern­ments agree on such a need. Why then are plans for a new Cas­tries sit­ting in gov­ern­ment of­fices col­lect­ing dust? Why is there so lit­tle pub­lic de­bate on the mat­ter? How much would it cost to dis­cuss plans for the ex­pan­sion, beau­ti­fi­ca­tion and mod­ern­iza­tion of Cas­tries on na­tional tele­vi­sion (NTN)?

Re­ac­tion to the gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­tion to oc­cupy the site of the Cul­tural Cen­tre for the Min­istry of Jus­tice Law Courts etc. must also en­vi­sion im­proved road and sea ac­cess to and from Cas­tries. The de­bate ought also to con­sider suit­able lo­ca­tions for modern bus ter­mi­nals to serve the north and south of the is­land; high-rise car park­ing as well as suit­able recre­ational spa­ces and multi-storey liv­ing spa­ces. There are ex­cit­ing al­ter­na­tives to the sta­tus quo if we de­ter­mine to free our minds from the old Cas­tries we re­mem­ber and hold sa­cred.

Fear and timid­ity plus a non-ad­ven­tur­ous spirit seemed at the root of those who func­tion best only within Cas­tries and its en­vi­rons. That re­ac­tion can be traced to the past. His­tor­i­cally, re­sid­ing within Cas­tries made ac­cess to gov­ern­ment ser­vices and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion eas­ier and less costly. There was no need for paid trans­port to and from the city and ven­tur­ing far off seemed a dis­ad­van­tage.

In­ter­est­ingly, the gen­er­a­tions that re­turned to the is­land from univer­sity abroad built their dream homes as far out­side the city as ex­panded road sys­tems, wa­ter and elec­tric­ity al­lowed.

There were of course many cit­i­zens who did not bother to grav­i­tate to Cas­tries. Th­ese dodged sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion – a sav­ing from in­sti­tu­tional colo­nial­ism, as some saw it. Among that lot, some chose mi­gra­tion as a means of job pro­cure­ment and in­come. Those who mi­grated in the 50s and 60s re­turned to build their dream homes near the vil­lages of their birth. Mi­coud, Den­nery, Anse La Raye and Ca­naries come to mind.

There was also the third part of the pop­u­la­tion which missed out on both sec­ondary school­ing and mi­gra­tion.

Of th­ese three broad groups of Saint Lu­cians, at least one has tended to de­fine the gov­ern­ment and the coun­try be­fore and af­ter adult suf­frage. That group is also more likely to ex­press an opin­ion with its own in­ter­est in mind, rather than that of the coun­try. One there­fore needs to look be­yond nar­row self-in­ter­est in plan­ning the new and modern city even though those born there may claim to bet­ter un­der­stand the city’s needs.

The most im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion of a city is the ser­vice it pro­vides for its cit­i­zens and visitors. It is of­ten the seat of gov­ern­ment. The ease of move­ment, park­ing and ef­fi­ciency of ser­vices (both pri­vate and pub­lic) is there­fore cru­cial. Easy and rapid ac­cess to and from all parts of the is­land to the cap­i­tal en­tails bet­ter and wider roads, more suit­able high rise park­ing and more open green recre­ational spa­ces. Th­ese ideas lead in­ex­orably to an ex­pan­sion of Cas­tries to the north, east and south. Easy ac­cess may also mean a reg­u­lar ferry ser­vice be­tween Rod­ney Bay and Cas­tries. New road link­ages to and from Cas­tries also sug­gests tun­nels be­neath Morne Dudon, (Mi­coud Street ex­ten­sion), an­other from the top of Bridge Street to Cul de Sac and a third from a Cas­tries by­pass road from the north through Balata and Gi­rard/Ca­cao ex­it­ing at Culde-Sac, east of the clay block fac­tory. In ad­di­tion, a siz­able ring road on the perime­ter of Cas­tries some 300 me­ters from Chaussee Road along the lower lev­els of Morne Dudon ought to fur­ther ease con­ges­tion within the city. A multi-storey car park be­tween Chaussee Road and the new tun­nel at Morne Dudon is en­vi­sioned.

In 1981 I took with me to Tripoli a rough plan for a Cas­tries by­pass road. I was roy­ally treated, (so was Joe Cox, my per­sonal as­sis­tant). The au­thor­i­ties po­litely sug­gested that I would be in­vited to re­turn fol­low­ing the is­land’s next gen­eral elec­tions. Those who ganged up and frus­trated my ef­forts at re­build­ing the bro­ken SLP have long been for­given.

Easy and rapid com­mu­ni­ca­tions to and from the new Cas­tries makes the build­ing of courts and cul­tural venues within its lim­its some­what re­dun­dant. Other venues for a cul­tural cen­tre were con­sid­ered last week. If, how­ever, we in­sist on a cul­tural cen­tre in its present lo­ca­tion, here is a vi­sion: a large hole some forty feet deep with at least four exit tun­nels cut at its base to pro­vide ex­its/en­trances at ground level should first be dug at the present site. Road con­nec­tions at it base - links to Sans Souci, Con­way near the car park, at Dar­ling Road near the Methodist School, and a fourth near to the Bethel church at the top of Sans Souci - be built. The build­ing it­self should be sev­eral storeys with the top floor be­gin­ning at the present ground level at Barnard Hill, de­signed for the new per­form­ing arts the­atre. An ap­pro­pri­ate cov­er­ing at the top of the struc­ture should re­sem­ble a huge straw hat with an ap­pro­pri­ate dweyet de­sign around it. That hat (roof cov­er­ing) should be vis­i­ble to those who ar­rive by sea or by mo­tor vehicle from the Morne Road. If, how­ever, an­other site is cho­sen in pref­er­ence to Barnard Hill, its roof and top struc­tures should be imag­i­na­tively de­signed to echo the same na­tional sen­ti­ments with the wobe dwiyet and straw hat rem­i­nis­cent of Choiseul.

We never for­get to dream big, re­ally big, as our No­bel lau­re­ates taught us to do. We honour them by remembering that imag­i­na­tion is lim­it­less and that no race, tribe or peo­ple owns a mo­nop­oly of that sa­cred gift.

Next week: the third and fi­nal vi­sion of a new Cas­tries!

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