Newsday understands that at yesterday’s event Manning spoke briefly outlining what have been some of his administration’s achievements in the field of culture. He praised the establishment of the Divine Echoes band (funded by the Office of the Prime Minister), creation of the G-pan, formation of a national philharmonic orchestra and a national steel-pan orchestra.
Manning also made the most of the live entertainment as he also took to the dance floor, dancing with his wife Hazel to the playing of the Divine Echoes, as food and drink flowed at the swanky event, which was also attended by Information Minister Neil Parsanlal.
Invitations to the event, entitled “Expressions”, asking patrons to attend in “elegantly casual” attire were distributed to invited patrons this week. And those invited began turning up in their finery from about 6pm.
All of last month, concerns emerged over the repeated use by the Prime Minister of the President’s Grounds for parking. Yesterday, a football practice session by a team of teenagers from the area was cut-short to make way for the use of the grounds, which was once part of plans for a community centre in the area.
“I was not given notice that this would happen,”said the St Ann’s Rangers coach, who declined to give his name. “If we don’t have the facility and they use it for parking then its going to damage the surface. The surface is already damaged and we already struggle to play with it because it is very dusty. If you look at all the cars you will see the dust.” “We have been practicing here since inception. This is a community-based team. St Ann’s Rangers is a pro-league team that has all the different age groups. The team is disappointed because we have a game on the weekend.”
Among those who attended was the interim president of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago, Rubidiri Victor, who was invited to the event alongside members of the National Drama Association of Trinidad and Tobago (NDATT).
Victor said he hoped to discuss the issue of the State’s failure to adequately consult with the artists over the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) which he described in a dossier as a “tragedy” given flaws in its design and facilities.
“I hope to mention that and all of the other plans for artist buildings,” he said. Victor also yesterday said he planned to deliver a signed petition to Manning at yesterday’s event calling on whichever party that wins the May 24 election to implement a series of reforms to help the art community. He arrived at La Fantaisie at about 8.10pm, armed with the petition.
“We are presenting this petition to both parties in an effort to get some promises in relation to these things onstage,” Victor said. “These issues have been alive for a long time now.”
Also spotted entering yesterday’s event was TUCO board member Brother Resistance (Lutalo Makossa Masimba).
Newsday reporters were told by armed guards (who did not give their names or positions) that they would not be allowed on the public grounds and were also advised to move away from the public pavement adjoining it.