While some members and supporters welcome a new location for the iconic band Desperadoes, others insist its current Tragarete Road location is better than lower George and Duncan Streets, Port of Spain.
In February, the Prime Minister announced the Urban Development Corporation (Udecott) will build a new steelband theatre for Despers in east Port of Spain.
Since December 2017, the band has been based at the former site of the Government Printery at the corner of Victoria Avenue and Tragarete Road, Port of Spain.
Previously, the band's panyard was housed at the former site of the Greyfrias Church of Scotland on Frederick Street, Port of Spain and at the National Insurance Board carpark, corner Cadiz Street and Queen’s Park East, Belmont.
When Newsday visited its original space on the hills of Laventille, the panyard was locked up and no one was in sight.
However, at the panyard at Victoria Avenue and Tragarete Road, band members and supporters were seen in groups.
Nigel Flemming, a band member, said while the move is good, there would be some disadvantages in moving to George Street.
“I think if a survey was done the majority of people will tell you they prefer to travel to Tragarete Road. Times have changed and George Street is considered a hot spot.
“Those who are making these decisions don’t really think things through, because if they valued the name Desperadoes, they would know the worth of the band. We can have a first-class institution right here."
Flemming said although there would be security at the new space, it all comes down to people's mindset. He said while crime is taking place all over TT, George Street is also considered a “hot zone.”
“We plan to continue all our programmes at this new place, but if parents have to send their children from across the country, don’t you think they will feel much safer and comfortable sending their children to Tragarete Road panyard?
“We can have our own recording studio here, music classroom to empower the youth among other facilities. I really don’t think a lot of thought was put into this,” Flemming said.
Asked if he would prefer the band to return to the hills, Flemming said over the years the band had evolved and there was no longer any space in Laventille to accommodate its members and supporters.
“While crime may have played a part in it by keeping people away, the band has grown. We need to move. The new space is good because there is no other,” Flemming said.
Ellmon Haynes, who has lived in the Laventille area for the past 60 years, said moving the panyard to George Street was a good idea.
“In the (Laventille) area over the years crime was very challenging for the players and its supporters, but the band was also challenged with going in and out of the area because of the narrow roads.
“I am happy with the move. I think the band will do better in their new home,” Haynes aid.
Chairman of Udecott Noel Garcia said the project is out for competitive tender and the cost cannot be released at this time. However, he hopes the project will start in April.
“In the next three to four weeks we anticipate work to start. We are also looking at a six-month time frame for it to be completed. Somewhere in September or October it will be completed at George and Duncan Streets in Port of Spain,” Garcia said.
Udecott's corporate communications manager Roxanne Stapleton-Whyms said plans have already been made to establish a pan theatre, administrative offices, concession booths, covered pavilion, storage facility, washroom facilities and a car park there.
Asked why the space in Laventille cannot be developed and expand to house Desperadoes Steelband,
Stapleton-Whyms said it is a policy decision and referred the question to policymakers because Udecott receives mandates from the Government.