MAJESTY: "There's just too much history for Jamaica to lose," Greenland says of the cultural landmark.
Attracting the assistance of support groups like the Kingston on the Edge (KOTE) family, the Ward Theatre Foundation is on a massive drive to restore the legendary, North Parade-based cultural centre — once home to the likes of Miss Lou and Mas Ran and the entire Pantomime Company — to its iconic former glory. And committedly leading the charge is foundation chairman, Dr. Jonathan Greenland, who spoke exclusively to TALLAWAH earlier this week about the vision and the mission:
The Ward will take about US$7 million to fix and be completely redone. All the chairs have to be changed and they're also too small, and there is not enough space between them. And we need air conditioning in the building. The lights are very old, the fans are very old. The carpeting is in a terrible state and the ceiling needs to be fixed. So it's basically a redoing of just about everything, both inside and at the front of the building.
We have a timeline, but we don't have the money. That's the problem. So what we want to do now is start small with events like this [Kingston on the Edge's Ward Theatre Project], bring in fans and things like that, so we can just start that momentum. And hopefully we can get the money for air conditioning one month and then the money to improve other things as we go along. If the foundation had stopped doing anything, the place wouldn't have a staff, no security and the whole place would have become a derelict building and practically falling down.
There is just too much history here. Hundreds of years of theatre, from as early as 1775, before the foundation of the United States of America! There used to be four different theatres in this very location, including the Ward itself which is over 100 years old. So there's just too much history for Jamaica to lose. And if we don't do something, in 50 years' time, people will look back and say, What was wrong with the generation that came along and let this incredible thing fall to pieces? We have to bear in mind that the arts are fundamental to the development of any nation. — As told to TALLAWAH.
Play your part: To learn more about the work of the Ward Theatre Foundation and to find out how you can help, visit wardtheatrefoundation.com.