National Academy for the Performing Arts tragedy

National Academy for the Performing Arts
National Academy for the Performing Arts

By Andre Bagoo
March 14, 2010 –

IT COULD TAKE as much as $80 million to correct flaws in the design of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Port-of-Spain, the interim President of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) Rubadiri Victor, estimated yesterday.

While Prime Minister Patrick Manning last week praised the NAPA as being “world class,” Victor yesterday begged to differ, saying the facility is plagued with technical problems and argued that it does not compare in any form with Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.

Discussing a dossier on the NAPA prepared by the ACTT which has been circulating on the internet this month, Victor, a multi-media artist, said, “$80 million is a realistic estimate of the costs that would be involved to correct the defects.”

“It appears as though the firm which built and designed the facility (Shanghai Construction Group) may not have been experienced in building facilities of this kind,” he said.

The ACTT in their dossier, entitled, “The Tragedy and Hidden History of the NAPA”, the coalition of artists also estimate that maintenance of the building like the NAPA, which has an estimated budget of about $500 million, can approach as much as ten per cent of building cost. Architects, though, noted that maintenance costs are difficult to estimate due to the variables involved, such as the quality of original materials used.

Among the defects noted in the ACTT dossier are:

There is no loading area for the main stage;

The stage is “ill-matched” to the 1,500 seating capacity of the hall;

The orchestra pit is defective;

The light and sound boards are analogue and not digital (the industry standard for the last decade);

There are “hundreds of problems with lighting and sound fixtures and equipment” The stage floor is “ribbed and is not a sprung floor so is ill-suited for dancing and thus will damage dancers”.

Dance studios are flawed;

There are “no costume rooms, no set construction rooms and no warehousing rooms”;

One architect not involved in the ACTT report, who has been inside the NAPA yesterday confirmed the flaws identified in the report and added, “the floors are laminated and they have begun to chip already. Because of materials used, there are also creases on the stage, which will be a challenge for dancer.”

“A loading area’s dimensions are normally about 16 feet x 10 feet- NAPA has a normal door! This means that sets, costumes of a certain size, certain musical instruments (hint- one of them is our national one) cannot fit through NAPA’s doors to get backstage!” the report, compiled from a site visit and other sources, notes.

“The two rooms that have been trumpeted as the two smaller theatres are in fact just two rooms. Flat rooms with no seats. It would cost tens of millions of dollars to convert these rooms into theatres.”

“All the light and sound boards are analogue not digital. They are also mid-standard and not high-end,” the report continues. “Most of the fixtures are completely wrong: There are literally hundreds of problems with lighting and sound fixtures and equipment. Some may sound small to laypeople but they mean everything to the technicians entrusted to make sure shows go on.”

“For instance: the bars that the hundreds of light fixtures are on are square and not round. This means that lights can only be pointed in four directions (two of them up to the roof!) and not in gradated choice as on a round bar.”

Tellingly, signage for technical parts of the building is in Chinese, an indication that the design—heavily trumped as being inspired by the Chaconia flower—may not have been original to Trinidad and Tobago.

Additionally, “There are no dressing rooms within reach of the backstage, and no clothing racks, showers and a host of other amenities in the dressing rooms that do exist. This probably can be rectified but it will cost.”

“There are no monitors for backstage and for the stage manager. This probably too can be rectified — but it will cost.”

“The stage-floor is ribbed and is not a sprung floor so is ill-suited for dancing and thus will damage dancers. Theatrical floors are ‘rigged’ so that dancers can dance on then — they have a bounce to absorb and cushion dancers — otherwise it’s like you are dancing on concrete.”

“The dance studios are completely unsuited for dance. The dance-rooms have concrete and terrazzo floors; have dance bars too high; and have mirrors on both walls creating a circus infinite-mirror effect. This means there are effectively no dance studio spaces in NAPA. New properly constructed dance floors will have to be built, one mirrored wall will have to come down and all the dance bars taken down and re-hung.

To add to the litany of complaints, “there are no costume rooms, no set construction rooms and no warehousing rooms.”

Members of the ACTT include Fabien Alphonso, president of the Recording Industry Association of Trinidad and Tobago (RIATT) and Andre Reyes, president of the Artist Teachers Association.

“I don’t know how it could be that the firm that got the contract has a competency in building a performing arts centre,” Victor, who appeared before the Uff Commission of Inquiry into Udecott, the state corporation that built the facility, said. “This is a tragedy of an immense proportion.”

President of the Joint Consultative Council of the local construction industry Winston Riley yesterday noted that aside from functional problems, there have been concerns about the construction materials used for the project.

“There are serious concerns about it as an academy,” he noted, “but we have been concerned about the use of mild steel in the building which we believe would put the building under risk.”

The NAPA was reportedly built pursuant to a Government to Government agreement between Trinidad and Tobago and China, at an estimated budget of about $500 million. There was no competitive tender for the project which was handed to the Shanghai Construction Group, the same company that built the Prime Minister’s Residence and Diplomatic Centre. Efforts to contact SCG were unsuccessful.

When Manning, who had come under fire for his constant defence of Udecott in the face of compelling evidence of corruption at the state enterprise, opened the building last November, he called it, “a masterpiece owned by the people of Trinidad and Tobago.”

At a press briefing last week in London for Commonwealth observances, Manning, the chairman of the Commonwealth, noted that the opening ceremony for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) took place at NAPA. “All in all my dear friends, I think that we were pleased with the outcome. Of course, we were able to expose to the international community a new facility in Port-of-Spain: a National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) which as everybody saw, we believe is acknowledged to be a world class facility in a small developing country, seeking and striving to take its place among the great countries of the world,” Manning said. Udecott has blocked attempts to have an open media tour of the project.

“Taxpayers are going to have to live with this,” Victor said yesterday.,117279.html

10 thoughts on “National Academy for the Performing Arts tragedy”

  1. It’s scandalous
    “IT’S scandalous! A monumental waste of public funds,” was how Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday described the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain. She also expressed disgust over the revelation, as reported in yesterday’s edition of Newsday, that an estimated $80 million would be needed to correct major flaws at the academy as pointed out by president of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) Rubadri Victor, in a dossier entitled “The Tragedy and Hidden History of the NAPA”.

  2. Once again the Opposition is reacting to a “fait accompli” situation rather than being proactive before the construction of the Performing Arts center.
    The Opposition should be leading rather than jumping on the bandwagon and taking thier cues from informed artisan critics.We blame the government at every opportunity, but one of the major problems in T&T is an ineffective Opposition, acting as informed watchdogs.

  3. To think that some would say that I should have given up on the likes of a past intransigent , non objective thinker such as T-Man. I knew that they were wrong ,and my Granny the wise one was correct when she echoed the well tested viewpoint that, “Perseverance is the key to success.”
    It took the good fellow close to two years to appreciate what I and a few astute political observers were trying to tell him and enamored tribalistic party fans. In a democracy , a government can be only as ineffective , and useless , if they are allowed so to be by the current Opposition of the day.
    It is clear even for the visually impaired to see ,that our Opposition under the stewardship of Basdeo Panday has done a disservice to this country , in not first holding the respective governments accountable where necessary, but secondly attempting to be an exemplary ‘government in waiting,’ ready to fill the void with useful broad based ,policy ideas ,when the opportunity presents itself.
    They have failed in that they misunderstood one of the most important tenets in politics , as expected of them by a very savvy voting public.
    This is that your job is not simply to opposed for the sake of opposition every policy put forth by the government-even those with merits , that could be beneficial for the nation. Since in their case they were no longer a mere Trade Union Pressure group , but a political party vying to rule the entire country, they were expected to not only concentrate on narrow constituency political affairs, but occasionally those that can aid in the full growth and development of all our peoples ,and the nation.
    “Every creed and race finds and equal place ,” is not a catch phrase slogan for Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, ML King, or some Nobel Peace Prize advocate, but part of our national anthem, which must be practiced in and out of power – in thoughts words ,deeds and action if the wish is to differentiate oneself from the encroaching arrogance by the cocky PNM leadership ,and their over confident , well oiled , fat cat agents.
    Our often sleeping populace , with few exception , as voters could see clearly through most country hating behaviors , and so won’t extend rewards via the polls.
    In addition salt is added to injuries ,when voters are repeatedly chastised , as being naive party hacks , and self haters , for daring to give fresh mandates to the PNM , each time they ignore transparently shallow political overtures, and conveniently created marriages of convenience. Such actions can best be characterized as not only ludicrous , but politically suicidal as was repeatedly proven.
    It is only gullible idiots that just landed from Mars that could believe or subscribe to the preposterous accusations that the PNM has only won power ,in due part to electoral corruption-unless one is saying that 1986, 1995 and 2000, when they lost, were aberrations , or mere figment of our collective imaginations.
    It is therefore insulting to the intelligence of our people to resort to this and similar childish , ungracious ‘sour grapes,’ ploys.
    I am extremely skeptical , but fairly optimistic, that Madame Kamela has what it takes to lead this Opposition party in a different direction – from which it was stuck for decades-which can eventually lead to some modicum of success for her and party ,as well as in the long run , the nation as a whole.
    It is safe to say that we deserves no less. The socially progressives are observing Madame K.We are prepared to extend the olive branch to one of your loyal advisors T-Man, but promise to closely ‘examine his horns,’and would not hesitate to crush him like a Brazilian Anaconda , if he becomes a procrastinating thorn in our flesh.
    Here me out, and be forewarned :-‘If you’ve always done, what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get , what you’ve always got.’
    A word to the wise is sufficient, ‘ehh’ T-Man?

  4. Buying NAPA in bag
    That Government could have proceeded to have the designs and construction done by strangers and aliens, and without a single input from the local Arts community brings bitter memories of the debacle of the Mount Hope Hospital, designed and built by French consortia without any reference to local needs, local expertise and local services and materials. And that was completed in 1986, just as the then PNM Government was going out of power, in the wake of a massive “foreign-driven” construction programme riddled with waste incompetence and corruption.

    NAPA troubles President
    PRESIDENT George Maxwell Richards has expressed concern over reports of faulty facilities at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain and has gone so far as to hold a meeting with the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago (ACTT) on the issue, Newsday has learnt.

  5. Stakeholders deny being consulted over arts academy
    CULTURAL stakeholders are challenging a statement made by Culture Minister Marlene McDonald that they were consulted during the construction of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). McDonald, during a news conference on Tuesday at the Ministry of Culture, St Ann’s, listed 15 organisations which were consulted on the NAPA project.

  6. NAPA guards block Dookeran from tour
    SECURITY officers yesterday blocked a contingent of Congress of the People (COP) members from entering the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain.

    …Dookeran and team barred from NAPA

    No Chutney for NAPA
    CULTURE Minister Marlene Mc Donald blanked a proposal for the hosting of the World Chutney Soca Monarch at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of- Spain because the facility was – in her view – not built for “those kinds of things”, according to president of the National Chutney Foundation, Vijay Ramlal.

    Insensitive or arrogant?
    Why has Government, even with the controversy surrounding its arbitrary award of multi-million dollar construction contracts, gone ahead and entered into an arrangement with the Chinese Government for the erection of the National Carnival Centre by the Shanghai Construction Group (SCG)?

  7. NAPA a ‘cat-in-bag’ deal
    Rubadiri Victor emerged into national focus a week ago, after Artists Coalition of T&T, which he heads, claimed there were design and construction flaws at the costly National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Victor is a long-time practitioner and advocate of the arts. He discussed NAPA and the arts, generally, in a wide-ranging interview.

  8. Let’s have open tour of Napa
    In the wake of an aggressive refutation by the Minister of Culture of his accusations of inappropriateness in construction of the National Academy of Performing Arts, activist Rubadiri Victor has circulated a new document alleging the many failures of consultation on the way to the theatrical facility Trinidad and Tobago has today.

    Verily, verily, I say unto you
    Thank Minister of Culture Marlene McDonald for the title of this week’s column. There it was in Newsday, March 17, Marlene McDonald impressing on us that the National Academy for the Performing Arts was “a fantastic facility” and that “… the interim president of the Artists Coalition of Trinidad and Tobago, (Rubadiri Victor) had, along with persons known to have political aspirations, sought to derail the construction of the facility even prior to the start of construction.” Enemies again. They are all over the place. Poor Mr Victor. He simply has the wrong friends.

  9. Mac Farlane: ‘Tweaking’ still needed at NAPA
    Reigning Carnival bandleader Brian Mac Farlane says the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) is “fabulous,” but he admits there were some issues to be addressed like the door and flooring.

    Stop the South Academy
    ARTISTS yesterday literally begged the State to reverse a trend of non-consultation over the controversial Academy for the Performing Arts, as they wrote Prime Minister Patrick Manning calling on him to stop work on the South Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA).

    Ramlal rebuts Ravi B on NAPA
    PRESIDENT of the National Chutney Foundation Vijay Ramlal has presented proof that his request to host the World Chutney Soca Monarch at the National Performing Arts (NAPA) was denied by Culture Minister Marlene McDonald.

    Only media for today’s tour
    Vel Lewis, deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Culture, says only media personnel will be taken on a tour of the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) at Princes Building Grounds, Port-of-Spain, today.

  10. Regrello: $20m to fix NAPA flaws
    Junia Regrello, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs says it will cost about $20 million to attend to the niggling issues like lighting and flooring at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), Princes Building Grounds, Port-of-Spain. Regrello came forward yesterday in his capacity as both performer and member of government. Along with recently appointed Sharon Christopher, chair of the management committee of the auditorium, Regrello admitted to flaws that need to be addressed.

    NAPA flaws ‘to be fixed’
    The media yesterday observed certain flaws in need of fine-tuning, and possibly repair or replacement, at the newly-built National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain.

    City Corp CEO: No approval for NAPA in South

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