During the visit of Dr William Bell, Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama; a tour of the Ward Theatre was arranged on Wednesday, February 15, 2017 in efforts to showcase aspects of our cultural heritage. It is a priority of this administration to restore the theatre and eventually have its facilities upgraded. The site was therefore selected to host a brief cultural recital.
Bits of Jamaica’s rich culture was highlighted through dance, drama and music. The theatre was once again for a brief moment filled with smiles and laughter reminiscence of its former glory. Items were contributed by Zosia McGregor who did a soothing reggae medley, Mario Nelson who recited a humorous performance of Gate Man written by Owen “Blakka” Ellis, Tivoli Dance Troupe and Mento Madness.
The guests were also given insight into the history of the theatre by Dr Jonathan Greenland of the Ward Theatre Foundation.
The building is far from where it ought to be, but with the aid of corporate Jamaica and the artistic community we are confident that we will be able to restore this cultural monument. Members of the Jamaican diaspora who were a part of the Birmingham delegation were left nostalgic and have committed to assisting in whatever way possible when plans have begun to raise funding for the theatre.
The initial cost of the project will be approximately five hundred thousand American dollars to get the facilities in functional order; with an additional 6 million dollars for the complete renovation. This sum is quite mammoth for any individual to undertake. However, if we unite and everyone adds their “one one cocoa” to the basket then we can make this long overdue restoration a reality.
The Ward Theatre is a significant part of our history and truly generations to come will appreciate the arts much more when they can be displayed in their former home. The restoration of the Ward Theatre will be dubbed as “Re-Ward”. Not merely for the novelty of the pun but also because truly, this historic site will undoubtedly reward us for refurbishing, renovating and ultimately re-opening it to the performing arts.
The Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation in doing its fair share to aid in the restoration process will be establishing a special task force charged with raising some 20 million dollars towards making the Ward Theatre operational. These funds will go directly towards the immediate needs of the theatre which include security, bathroom and dressing room facilities, sewer lines, roof repairs, plumbing and electrical repairs and the installation of new windows, doors and grills.
Our guests from Birmingham, who are big on theatre and the arts were marveled by the potential and beauty that the theatre still has. It is due time that as Jamaicans and citizens of Kingston we also appreciate it and restore it to its former glory.