End of an Era

An era is a period of history when something really important happens; it lasts for a very long time, hundreds or thousands of years. Definitions notwithstanding,  and while “Fish” and “Abbie” blessed the CDF for just eleven years, and “Boots” a mere four, their recent departure from the organization feels like the end of one era, and the commencement of a new.

The adventure began in 2001: the CDF was a mere baby, in need of nourishment, support and direction and conceived in a society where training for artists and the development and promotion of creativity and culture is looked upon with deep suspicion and distrust. It was in this climate that a small group of pioneers, veritable nurse-maids, began the task of weaning this CDF infant (under the direction of the indefatigable, deceased, Patricia Charles), in the hope that our society would eventually embrace the organization as its own.

George “Fish” Alphonse (Cultural Field Officer) and Gandolph “Abby” St. Clair (Programme Coordinator, Communities), and a few others, became  local disciples of arts and culture and the CDF became their temple. These early celebrants embraced a theology of culture and challenged a reluctant society, with proselytizing zeal, to care for, value and listen to our artists and to embrace our culture.

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Gandolph ‘Abby’ St.Clair speaking at Festival of Lights 2012

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George ‘Fish’ Alphonse at Fet la Woz 2012

Soon they were joined by another “High Priest” who had cut his cultural teeth in the trenches at the Folk Research Center. “Boots” had been Executive Director of the FRC for a few years and when the similar position at the CDF fell vacant his move across to the CDF was both logical and straightforward. And so for the past few years the names and faces of these three have become the acknowledged image of the CDF.

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Kennedy ‘Boots’ Samuel speaking at the launch of the rebranded CDF 2013

But like all true leaders they led by example. Never satisfied with simply being administrators of arts and culture they sought to also contribute by actively participating in the cultural life of the society. As actors, directors and playwright, they brought quality and professionalism to the local and regional stage.

Abby became synonymous with community carnivals and the French participation in our “Mas”; Fish became Missie’ La Woz ek La Magewit; while Boots was, well, everything else. Together they rode the alternating tides of successes, failures, achievements, inadequacies, criticism and recognition and they never abandoned their optimism in and faith that our people would one day give our artists their due and place arts and culture at the centre of a genuine national conversation.

Today, largely through their efforts, the CDF has become synonymous with arts and culture locally. Indeed, the organization has become the default option, whenever there is need for leadership in the planning or executing of activities with an artistic or cultural component.

A remarkable achievement by some remarkable personalities.

History records that even the greatest of leaders must pass on as new generations seize the mantle and carve new directions. The era of Boots, Fish and Abby is slowly but ineluctably transitioning to a different time with fresh challenges and different configurations. But as they depart from the corridors of the CDF, they leave behind a challenge for the new team: a challenge to bring to demonstrate  the same passion, commitment and love for the arts and culture and to elevate the CDF  to new heights of efficient and effective delivery of service to the nation.

Author: Petrus Compton, Chairman of the Board of Directors, CDF

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