Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Historic Caribbean National Trust Conference a resounding success

“The best conference I’ve ever been to!” “Today was the most memorable day of my life!” “What an experience!”

These were just some of the excited comments at the end of the historic first Caribbean Conference of National Trusts which just concluded at the Savannah Beach Hotel, the Garrison, Barbados. The conference ended with a Heritage Island Tour and lunch at the famous Fisherpond House recently.

The Barbados National Trust hosted some 75 people at this conference, designed to share experiences, challenges, skills and solutions between the 13 Caribbean countries represented.

Heritage site inscription

The recent inscription of Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison as a UNESCO World Heritage site was part of the inspiration for the gathering. But it was also the recognition that we are all in the same Caribbean boat of having a rich heritage that is largely ignored by our Tourism authorities and our Ministers of Finance. Hence, the Trust secured funds to assist several countries to participate.

Trusts represented included those from UNESCO World Heritage sites St. Kitts (Brimstone Hill), Dominica (Morene Trois Pitons) and St. Lucia (the Pitons), as well as Bermuda, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Curacao, Aruba, St. Eustatius, Dominica and Montserrat.

The Minister of Tourism opened the Conference and the Minister of Culture spoke at the Reception at the famous George Washington House. Both praised the work of our national trusts and spoke with passion and conviction on the huge importance of our heritage and heritage tourism in restoring our economic health.

Outstanding Keynote Lectures were given by Dr. Lennox Honychurch of Dominica on the restoration of the Cabrits, and Barbadian descendent Ian Sanchez of Charleston, South Carolina, on “Restoring Prosperity: Economic and social Benefits of Preserving Natural and Cultural Assets in Barbados and Carolina”. In fact Ian Sanchez’s lecture received the Chairman’s award (by participants’ votes) for the best lecture of all, beating Dr. Honychurch into a close second! But all of the presentations were five star in quality.

Ian Sanchez is in fact the grandson of Barbadian hero, the famous “T.T.” Lewis, trade unionist of the early 1940s, and is a leading preservationist in Charleston.

There were several international leading experts on preservation, and other keynote lectures were given by leading members of the International National Trust Organisation – Dr. Bill Turner, the Vice President, from British Columbia,  Catherine Leonard, Head of the INTO Secretariat and based in Britain, and  Natalie Bull, Director of Canada Heritage Trust.

Tracey Todd of Middleton Place, South Carolina, Terry Suthers of Harewood House in Britain, and Jeff Soule of the American Planners Association, completed the international experts panels, while Donald Insall Associates with architect Rudylynn deFour Roberts of Citizens for Conservation in Trinidad presented a splendid Workshop on Historic Building Restoration. A cross section of stakeholders including Paul Altman, realtor, and  Colin Jordan of the BHTA, took part in the panel discussions.

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