Demming: Despers’ hard gift—how will they fund operating and maintenance costs?

Congratulations to Despers on receiving their second multimillion-dollar gift from the people of Trinidad and Tobago.

Their first theatre gift remains closed, up the hill next to the community centre by the gorgeous, gigantic John Dende Statue resides—which was designed and created by a Laventille resident called Leo Warner.

The Desperadoes Steel Orchestra perform during the 2023 Panorama competition.
(Copyright Maria Nunes)

During the Covid pandemic, I had an opportunity to pay a site visit to the space. It brought back wonderful memories of listening to Pat Bishop lovingly bouffe the band members for mispronouncing their Pan is Beautiful winning rendition of “The Bartered Bride” by Bedřich Smetana as “de battered bride”.

I also relived the moments of looking to the left and seeing the lights at the top of the Lady of Fatima Church and looking to the right and enjoying the breathtaking view of Port of Spain.


Very few institutions get a second chance to get things right, so this TT$14 million building is a unique opportunity that Despers must get right—and the band will not get it right unless a carefully considered business model is created and implemented.

If it works, that business model might be used as a guide for Invaders who have been working on acquiring their own space for many years now. It might also be used by Phase 11 Pan Grove, which is also in the midst of sensitive negotiations to own their space.

The Desperadoes Pan Theatre.
(Copyright Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts)

The list of potential users for such a business model can go on and on.

The first challenge Despers face is that this location will not attract supporters. The same issues that chased them from up the hill continue and are intensified nationally. Even the US government, amidst its own decades-old epidemic of mass shootings and child killings, has included midtown Port of Spain on its list of places to avoid.

No matter how much I love Despers, fear of crime and violence will keep me away.

Queen’s Hall, NAPA, SAPA, and the Little Carib are all cultural spaces that survive based on state subvention. As a society, we have not worked out how to make cultural spaces sustainable and this Despers space can now be added to that list of spaces that require continued funding.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell at the Desperadoes Pan Theatre.
(Copyright Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts)

What is needed is a strategic plan that considers the long-term view of the sustainability of a creative space.

The success of this kind of project requires a specialized skill set that may not be available in the current configuration. It needs collaboration between business strategists, art administrators, cultural enablers, and financial wizards.

As the new owners of this $14 million space, I wonder how Despers will fund the operating and maintenance cost of the building.

An architect friend told me that a back-of-the-envelope maintenance formula is to budget 20% of the construction cost for maintenance.

Despers, I love you and wish you the best—but this is a hard gift to have received.

More from Wired868
Dear editor: Is T&T Transparency Institute really a worthy NGO?

“[…] We are not serious/Very few conscious/So I cannot agree with mih own chorus!…” from the first verse of Dis Read more

Demming: What criteria were used to measure Erla’s performance?

When Erla Harewood-Christopher assumed the role of acting commissioner of police in December 2022 following the vacation of her predecessor, Read more

Dear editor: Farewell to a true Gens de Arime—everybody loved Raymond Morris

    “[…] A true Gens de Arime, Raymond was loved and appreciated for his kind and generous spirit. “He Read more

Orin: The potential cost of UNC’s civil war

“[…] Ever since she ran in 2015 on a leader-centric election marketing campaign that sold the virtues of Kamla The Read more

Dear Editor: Calypso Fiesta should be only road to Big Yard—not Tobago Monarch!

“[…] It is totally unfair to all semi-finalists that a calypsonian who won a competition in Tobago months before, under Read more

Dear Editor: Why was Thomas-Felix moved? Industrial Court owes T&T transparency

From the onset I wish to indicate that I hold no brief for either the outgoing office holder or the Read more

Check Also

Dear Editor: The Bible and women; why Deborah’s story matters

“[…] I did not always know about Deborah—based on my experience, she is rarely spoken …

4 comments

  1. Ms Demming, in her usual style, has sought to be overly critical of the possibility of Despers making a success of this enterprise. Why the negativity? Why weren’t suggestions made for creating financial and cultural success? Laventille has a host of professional personnel who can help to make this happen. All the best, Despers👍

    • Sorry that you only see the negativity … here are 2 quotes from the article: “What is needed is a strategic plan that considers the long-term view of the sustainability of a creative space”.

      “The success of this kind of project requires a specialized skill set that may not be available in the current configuration. It needs collaboration between business strategists, art administrators, cultural enablers, and financial wizards”.

  2. You could not have been more ON POINT.

    For far too long, maintenance have been an after-thought even involving the most respected Designer withing the Architectural fraternity, and mat I boldly add Our touted Engineering Circle.

    This is just one of the many facets that leaves the concerned minds amongst us in a quagmire, with no answers or to use a mathematical expression the QUOTIENT, to either satisfy the Planners action after such CAPITAL OUTLAY.

    The mind and corresponding action must now go BEYOND THE POLITICAL Ambitions, embracing genuine Investment considerations as the CREDO SYSTEM bekons……. for after all, too often we view these with the hmmmm ( sealed lips and closed eyes ) answers, much to the detriment of the wider national interest and ultimately, at the mercy of those who would surely done the calculations that would have enabled Citizens across our small but interesting space to utter repeatedly… ….g8 Job Mister Government.

    This is my money…….not just spent……but well spent. Madam Demming, you have a SECOND CHANCE…….dive in and let’s FIX DIS.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.