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julian francis
Minister of Works, Senator Julian Francis (Internet photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – A lawmaker has raised concerns about the use of the Victoria Park as the fall out from the non-appearance of a Jamaican artiste here last Saturday continues.

Angry patrons pelted the stage at the multipurpose venue with bottles after it became known that Jah Cure would not be performing although he was in the country.

The artiste and the promoter of the show both later said that he did not perform because the show organisers did not pay him the total fees.

Senator Julian Francis, speaking on radio Tuesday night, noted that Victoria Park is used by a wide cross-section of the population for a variety of functions.

“… it is a multi-purpose venue and we have to treat it with a little more respect that we do,” said Francis, who is Minister of Transport and Works.

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He noted that former culture minister Rene Baptiste instituted the no-bottle policy because some citizens used empty bottles to pelt at each other at Carnival, resulting in bodily harm.

The policy was then extended to all playing fields and entertainment venues owned by the state.

Francis said there was a need to police the policy closer, adding that while there are three concrete bars at Victoria Park, bar operators often set up flimsy tents at the venue and sell drinks from them.

He noted that the bar operator at Saturday’s show said on radio that while he did observed the no-bottle policy, angry patrons raided the bar to retrieve the empty bottles hurled at the stage.

Francis said that Sunday morning the National Lotteries Authority (NLA), which manages Victoria Park, called him trying to source a commercial vacuum cleaner to clean up broken bottles because a school was scheduled to have their sports meet there on Monday.

The NLA, Francis said, spent from sunrise to sunset Sunday trying to clean up the Park.

matrix victoria park
Angry patron threw glass bottles at the Victoria Park Saturday night after they learnt that Jamaican artiste Jah Cure would not perform, as advertised (Photo:Chalis Porter).

“Now, somebody ought to be paying for this sort of work and I believe that the time has come when the authorities will have to look closer at the deposits that are required for use of these faculties,” he said.

“If you make a good piece in the Park, make sure that the owners of the facility makes a good piece and that you leave it in perfect order like how you met it and the next group that wants to use that facility and feel very safe doing so,” he further stated.

Francis also said he believes that the deposit paid for the use of Victoria Park should be substantial enough to cover either an insurance premium or for consideration of damage and clean up. He said the current deposit, which he did not disclose, is too small.

Show business expensive

Addressing the non-performance of Jah Cure, Francis said that he knows, from experience, that putting on show like he one on Saturday is an expensive undertaking.

He, however, said that promoters here are frequently unable to pay artiste their fees. He said that Barrington Levi, at a recent concert, had the same problem and only sang for part of the night because he had only received half of his fees.

“This brings in the whole matter of entertainment and trust and preparation. Too often we try to get these shows going and leave everything for the last minute. We don’t get our finances organised, we don’t prepare for the show and then patrons are left hanging. I understand it was quite a raucous in Victoria Park Saturday night, police having to fire shots off into the air to calm the crowd,” he said.

“I really think that it is time we draw the line and this one, I believe, was a little more upsetting seeing that the man who organised the show, known as Matrix, seemed to have come in, organised the show and moved back out.

“… In cases like these, we really have to make sure that we do a little bit more due diligence on these individuals … running in trying to make a quick buck and running out and they leave everybody holding the bag. And I really feel strongly about this. That is why I am spending some time on it to express my views on it,” Francis said.

“Everybody wants to get into the entertainment business and everybody doesn’t have the capital,” he further stated.

Opposition lawmaker St. Clair Leacock, who was at the Jah Cure concert, said on radio on Monday that the state should consider passing laws to ensure that patrons get what they pay for when they buy tickets such shows.

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