How approachable is the Willie Redhead Foundation?

I am aware of the existence of the Willie Redhead Foundation – an organisation that has taken a keen interest in the Historical Heritage and the preservation of Historical buildings and sites of Grenada.

I have also read a few articles about the organisation but I am yet to see any social media contact details or an address for this organisation and therefore feel the organisation is restricted to the few (a selective group) and not the many.

I do apologise in advance if I have got it wrong but as someone who has always been interested in Historical Heritage in continental Europe as well as the Americas, I am fully well aware of the importance of protecting Historical buildings; Historical sites and places of National importance and when I visited Grenada in 2005 for the first time in fifty-four years, I was appalled at the neglect and lack of respect given to our National Treasures by the government as well as the people of this country.

Sad to say, the pride in our Nation’s Heritage does not appear to exist in our people. If it does, they certainly don’t show their appreciation publicly.

What has got up my nose is a recent article published by one of Grenada’s leading weeklies in which a senior Government Minister, Gregory Bowen (Works Minister) commented on the amount of derelict buildings in the Nation’s capital.

The article was entitled: “The abandoned buildings in the city.” Gregory Bowen is quoted as saying: “the buildings can be demolished and the owners then sent a bill to pay the cost.”

The problem I have with Mr Bowen’s comment is simple. Most of the derelict buildings in the Capital could be linked to either the Church or the State – the Government of Grenada (properties belonging to the people); and most of these buildings are not only of great significant Historical Interest but are the Nation Treasures and Heritage that should be valued as irreplaceable.

These are buildings that ought to be Grade Listed for their protection from vandals and vagabonds.

Knocking down Historical buildings would be committing criminal acts in my opinion and should be treated as a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment. Such buildings are irreplaceable and must be saved for future generations.

Just to list a few: Government House with all its history not only of Grenada but that of the Windward Islands that were administered from this site; York House – Grenada Houses of Parliament until the hurricane of 2004; the National Library building; Fort George and Fort Matthew with their Historic French connection.

Is Gregory Bowen stark raving mad? The question one must ask is: Was Gregory Bowen speaking on behalf of his Government or was he speaking in a personal capacity? The only thing that needs to be demolished in St George’s is Gregory Bowen and I have very good reason for making such a comment.

In the article “the abandoned buildings in the City”, the Willie Redhead Foundation responded to the Minister’s comment with a damning detailed statement on the efforts the Foundation has made so far to Bowen and the Ministry he heads without any success to date.

Part of the statement reads: “The pronouncement made on public television by the Minister on Feb 18, 2014 that York House was structurally unsafe and should be demolished as it would not be cost effective to repair it, was challenged by the Foundation, and a letter to that effect was hand delivered to the Minister’s office on Feb 24, 2014.

There was no response to our letter, but the Parliamentary representative for the Town of St George, Hon. Nickolas Steele invited a delegation from the Foundation on March 4, 2014 to discuss the matter with him and to consider the Foundation’s recommendations for the Restoration of York House, a position which he himself and the Minister for Heritage & Culture supported.”

The statement goes on to comment on “subsequent meetings and inspections carried out by Grenada Institute of Professional Engineers and the Foundation for which a written technical report on the structural integrity of the building to the parties involved.”

“The party’s unanimous professional opinion was that the structure was generally sound and could be restored.”

The statement went on to say, “the second stage agreed, was to have the building and site cleaned and cleared of debris. It was the understanding of the inspection team that the cleaning and clearing of the building and site would be the responsibility of the Ministry of Works.” Gregory Bowen Ministry.

One year and ten months have gone and so far nothing has been done. So who is Gregory Bowen working for? The people of this country or is he in it for himself and should he be booted out of office?

My personal view is the Prime Minister should give this demolition Minister the chop or at least remove him from the Ministry of Works. His record shows he has  displayed total ignorance when it comes to our Nation’s Heritage.

The Foundation comments referred to “partnership working with government through the Ministry of Works in order to raise funds via the Grenadian Diaspora in the USA and Canada who are willing and able to offer substantial financial assistance of no less than 50% of the EC$5.0m (£1.25m sterling) estimated restoration cost of the project.”

It is at this point in the article that I take issue with the Foundation for instance; no mention whatsoever was made of the British Grenadian Diaspora. I am sure our High Commissioner in London could put out feelers and substantial sums can be raised from Grenadians and their off springs living in Great Britain.

Has any body bothered to contact Lewis Hamilton through his agent or his grandparents for that matter who live right here in St George’s? Lewis is a young man who has not forgotten his links/roots to Grenada and I am confident he would see it in his heart to support such a project.

The Virgin Atlantic boss Sir Richard Branson should be approached. He is known for his charitable work through his various companies and I am sure if he is written to with a letter explaining the project and what it would mean for Grenada tourism industry in the future he would be happy to give it his support. He is well known for his generosity.

It is time the Willie Redhead Foundation start thinking about being inclusive and start an appeal right here in Grenada to raise some of the funds needed for their restoration work. Visitors to our shores including yours truly will be all too happy to contribute.

Has the Foundation bothered to try and seek professional advice and support from all those experts we have in Britain on restoration of Historical buildings? You name the buildings they have worked on restoring them – hundreds.

Perhaps a letter to the British High Commissioner requesting some expert support to restore British Victorian buildings such as York House and Government House would do the trick.

The Foundation needs to publicise itself by at least giving contact details in every article published in its name; in this regard sympathisers can become donors and make contact in regards to contributions.

A website should be used in an appeal showing some of our Historical buildings that are in ruins and the foundation’s objective/targets for restoration.

Winston Strachan

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