WEDNESDAY WOMAN: Special bond with Speightstown
MANY EFFORTS have been made in recent times to breathe new life into the most northerly town centre in the island. Many projects have stalled, some have not lived up to their expectations, but the Uplift Speightstown Project is seeking to tie up all the loose ends.
Jewell Leacock, who spearheads the project, wants to encourage and foster a community spirit in the island’s second city. Her ultimate goal is to encourage more people back to the businesses and to make Speightstown a bustling town again.
“What started off as a desire to renovate the older and derelict buildings or those that have become eyesores has slowly morphed into implementing or erecting rules in the town as an attraction to locals and tourists,” she said.
The project will celebrate its first anniversary next month, but Leacock said most of the activity has been happening in the last four months.
Leacock who was born and raised in Speightstown, but moved not far away, said her family still lives there so she visits the area regularly. So for her, Speightstown has a lot of her memories and sentiment.
This mortician, who works at the Forensic Services Centre doing forensic autopsies, said: “Efforts have been made by Government and others, and a lot of projects have gotten under way over the years but I don’t think that enough is being done or as quickly as it should be done. It has been a couple years now that Speightstown has been in this state of peril so this is just my contribution as a citizen of Barbados and as someone who grew up in Speightstown.”
A combined effort by all those with a vested interest in Speightstown is what Leacock sees as needed to turn the area around. She said the business people in Speightstown, residents there and indeed from all across the island, along with the Government, need to play a part if the area is to be revived.
“More people need to care, to be aware that we have this historic place where so many things in Barbados have started, business and families – Barbados as a whole has been impacted,” Leacock said.
“On the brink of the 50th anniversary, even though I am proud of my country and all my ancestors have done, I cannot in all fairness look at places like Speightstown, and there are others, and feel proud. I would just like that people wake up to the cause and find a way to do the things that need to be done,” she said.
Leacock said from speaking to people who live and operate in Speightstown many of them still have a passionate love for the place. However, some feel that it is depleted.
“People are just going through the motions and that is expected when facing hardships, but that attitude needs to change once you want things to be better,” she said.
There are at least ten houses that need renovating because of their historical importance. “They represent old Barbados, the pillars of what things used to look like visually in the rural areas. It would be to preserve a piece of time that people still travel from outside of Barbados and try to connect to; I’m hoping that Barbadians would feel that nostalgic pull as well,” she added.
Plans are also in place to erect murals and allow artistic expression through events in the esplanade including the art session called Canvas And Strings.
In this focus on the arts it is hoped that artists will go to Speightstown and do their craft, whether they are visual artists, singers, dancers or involved in some other aspect of the creative sector.
“There is no reason why Speightstown cannot come alive; there is really nothing stopping people from starting to build something,” Leacock said.
While admitting that funding was an issue, she urged the private sector, funding agencies and investors to support the revitalisation of Speightstown, noting that it can only redound to the benefit of the country. She said there were lots of opportunities for investment in that town. “We want business to come do some research, see what Speightstown does not have and look to invest. We have the space; rents can be negotiated.”
Leacock’s lament was that a lot of people do not want to set up shop because they think there is insufficient foot traffic and fear they will not get a good return on their investment.
The mother of a 16-year-old son said part of her calling was to be of service to people in the bereavement area and she herself wants to eventually take the risk and start her own funeral home.
However, she also wants to give back to society and being involved with Uplift Speightstown is one such way at this time. (LK)