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Saturday 18 November 2017
People

From cop on the beat to the stage: Norvan, a ‘Best Village boy’

Norvan Fullerton

 

It’s not about doing things for any type of recognition. If things need to be done then you do it.

This is the belief of Norvan Fullerton, former Best Village programme director, former Dimanche Gras producer, and one of the founders and artistic directors of Malick Folk Performing Company.

On November 18, Malick will present Honouring Norvan Fullerton: When We Were There at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann’s.

Fullerton said he felt proud that Malick is recognising him in this way, adding that he is an advocate for people being honoured while they are alive.

He won the Chaconia Silver national award in 2003 for his contribution to community development and culture. “Fourteen years later it is a bonus that this has come around.”

Before he became a policeman in 1968, Fullerton was a member of A Company of Players, which he said was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s top dramatic groups with directors Gabriel Francis and Ronald Amoroso.

After joining the police service, he became one of four officers who acted in a skit called Dial 999, which aired every Monday night on Trinidad and Tobago Television in the 70s and early 80s. He explained that the five-minute slot contained a humorous skit with a serious message – teaching citizens how to protect themselves and their homes.

Fullerton said at the same time Horace James, one of the inspirations behind the programme, decided to create a group called The Jawters. His fellow Dial 999 actors as well as ten to 15 civilians joined the group and performed mainly comedy. In 1975, he became involved in Best Village when he joined the Barataria Players, which was part of the Barataria Community Council. By 1976 he was in charge of the group and Barataria won the competition in 1977.

“In ‘78 I wanted to do a production as defending champions. I got resistance and I decided that I needed to move on. So, in ‘79, we got together, the nucleus of the players from Barataria, and we formed the Malick Folk Performing Company. The rest is history. In three years time we were the champions of Best Village and by 1987 we had won the competition on five occasions, including a hat-trick.”

rmer Best Village programme director, former Dimanche Gras producer, and one of the founders and artistic directors of Malick Folk Performing Company.

On November 18, Malick will present Honouring Norvan Fullerton: When We Were There at Cascadia Hotel, St Ann's.

Fullerton said he felt proud that Malick is recognising him in this way, adding that he is an advocate for people being honoured while they are alive.

He won the Chaconia Silver national award in 2003 for his contribution to community development and culture. “Fourteen years later it is a bonus that this has come around.”

Before he became a policeman in 1968, Fullerton was a member of A Company of Players, which he said was one of Trinidad and Tobago’s top dramatic groups with directors Gabriel Francis and Ronald Amoroso.

After joining the police service, he became one of four officers who acted in a skit called Dial 999, which aired every Monday night on Trinidad and Tobago Television in the 70s and early 80s. He explained that the five-minute slot contained a humorous skit with a serious message – teaching citizens how to protect themselves and their homes.

Fullerton said at the same time Horace James, one of the inspirations behind the programme, decided to create a group called The Jawters. His fellow Dial 999 actors as well as ten to 15 civilians joined the group and performed mainly comedy. In 1975, he became involved in Best Village when he joined the Barataria Players, which was part of the Barataria Community Council. By 1976 he was in charge of the group and Barataria won the competition in 1977.

“In ‘78 I wanted to do a production as defending champions. I got resistance and I decided that I needed to move on. So, in ‘79, we got together, the nucleus of the players from Barataria, and we formed the Malick Folk Performing Company. The rest is history. In three years time we were the champions of Best Village and by 1987 we had won the competition on five occasions, including a hat-trick.”

Fullerton said he left the service in 1981 and worked in insurance for ten years. In 1991, he became Best Village’s first programme manager. The late Joyce Wong-Sang was the founder and co-ordinator. He said although he wanted to stay, he remained in that position for less than a year because there was no certainty that his contract would be renewed. According to Fullerton, his first stint as the producer of Dimanche Gras was in 1993. “I was the first person to move Dimanche Gras from the (Queen's Park) Savannah to the (Hasely Crawford) Stadium. It was the only time it was done in the stadium and the only time it ever made a profit.” He said with the exception of three years, he continued to be involved in Dimanche Gras, either as a director, producer, or stage manager, from 1999 to 2012.

Meanwhile, in 2002, he was appointed programme manager of Best Village and remained until 2014. During that time, he reinvented the programme, breaking the show up into categories and increasing participation. He said previously Best Village included one main play, two side skits, eight dances and eight songs. “When I went there in 2002, I changed up the entire programme. I used the Scouting for Talent model – once you can sing, dance or play an instrument, you could take part in the show. Once you could perform, get into a village council, get into a group, and take part in Best Village.”

“Significant to note, you would find only token East Indian participation. But now they could take part in East Indian influence dance, East Indian devotional, chutney dance, chutney song, tassa, and you could have five contestants each.”

He said the drumology category was also very popular as the young men in these groups did not have to be part of a theatre production but could just play the drums, while more experienced groups would participate in the folk theatre category. He said his one failing was that Best Village was not being promoted. The show needed proper marketing and promotion as the average citizen often did not know when it was taking place.

“I could have gone into traditional theatre. It was just the call of the drums. The Best Village programme had so much potential inside of it that I couldn’t do otherwise.”

However, he said by 1986 Best Village had already started “paying its way” with people from other countries visiting to learn the structure of the show in order to replicate it. He added the show needed to be refined to a one-week experience and made into a tourism product.

Fullerton said in 1989, Earl Lovelace challenged him to produce a play of his novel, Wine of Astonishment.

“At that time Earl Lovelace was big. I said, ‘There are so many other producers and you’re coming to a little Best Village boy?’ He kept on saying, ‘You have to have faith in yourself. You can do it’.”

He said Lovelace called on him again in 2002 to do The Dragon Can’t Dance and “it mash up the place.”

"Malick’s motto is to strive for excellence. It was formed with the basic desire to bring a pride to the participants in the Best Village programme, to uplift the creativity of our people.” Fullerton said he and the other founders set out to make Malick a household name so they performed as much as possible, even at the smallest shows, for free.

In 1991, they formed a junior company, currently consisting of approximately 150 members ages five to 16. Then, in 1993 the group collaborated with Michael Salickram and his Shiv Shakti Dance Group for the first time and continued to do so over the years.

“The point is to keep going from strength to strength. It’s not about me. It’s about the members of the group and how they have grown. Many of them have their own groups. We have Malick USA, a branch in Toronto that other members are in charge of... It’s about staying positive, moving forward and to keep the clarion call for Best Village because the stone that the builders rejected would one day become the cornerstone.”

Fullerton said although he has done so much, one of the accomplishments he was most proud of was being a co-ordinator of the TT chapter of the Pacific Lutheran University’s Caribbean Culture and Society programme at the University of the West Indies.

He explained that every year, from January to May, a group of students from the University in Washington visit Trinidad as part in the programme. They play mas and participate in phagwa; visit Tobago; nature, historic and heritage sites; and attend lectures on pan, calypso, rapso and more.

He said annually from 2003 to 2010, two local students received scholarships to attend the programme. He was particularly proud of one of the first local students, Candice Hughes Bengochea, who returned to TT, completed her Master's degree, and was now a director of the programme.

Fullerton expressed his appreciation of Wong-Sang for believing in him and giving him the chance to be a part of her legacy.

“Joyce is single-handedly responsible for where I am today because she’s the one that saw the potential in me and asked me to produce the 1984 final night, La Nuit Victoire, which is now called Les Grande Affaire.”

She later asked him to be the manager of the TT Best Village contingent on a tour of Ontario, Canada where she trained and advised him. Then, in 1986 he went to Brazil for a month with Best Village as a producer.

“She paved the way for me,” he said with gratitude.

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