Tue | Sep 19, 2017

Ward's curtains ready to rise by summer - $40-$50m budget to get theatre operational

Published:Monday | February 20, 2017 | 2:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Mayor of Kingston, Senator Delroy Williams.
A view of the Ward Theatre's interior.
Marjorie Whylie (left) who plays Mrs Lovett in Norman Rae's production of Stephen Sondheim's 'Sweeny Todd', doing a lively jig under the directoon of choreographer Neville Black. The musical was part of the Ward Theatre's 1993 Season of Excellence.
Seats and a passageway inside the Ward Theatre being cleaned up in 2014.
The Ward Theatre, downtown Kingston.
Dr Jonathan Greenland wiping the floor during the Ward Theatre Clean Up! in June 2014.
A volunteer wipes a glass door, through which members of the public can be seen passing by on North Parade, downtown Kingston, during the Ward Theatre Clean Up! in June 2014.
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Jonathan Greenland, executive member of the Ward Theatre Foundation, is the most optimistic he has been about restoration efforts since being part of the team.

Following a meet-and-greet at the North Parade, downtown Kingston theatre on Wednesday morning, he said things are finally looking up. He expects that with the money now being provided to fix important features, like the air conditioning, it will at least be operational by summer.

"For years, it felt like pushing a rock up a hill; but now it feels like we're pushing it down a hill because we have so many people now who are saying, 'I've heard enough of this, we're not gonna let the Ward Theatre just fall to pieces, so we're going to do our part'. It's not just me or the foundation. It is a significant number of people, a whole community who are now on board," he told The Gleaner.

"For so long, we just didn't get that. People would talk about it, but it just didn't come through. Luckily, we've got the mayor and the mayor has taken it up and said, 'Hey, we're gonna do it'."

Senator Delroy Williams told The Gleaner that the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) will be spending on renovations to get the theatre "up and running.

 

IMPORTANT TO REPAIR

 

"You can't really build a city without a theatre and without the arts, so it is imperative that we repair the place," Williams said. He explained that the KSAC and Ministry of Tourism have given the project new energy. "The Ministry of Tourism just committed $10 million as part of the restorations, and I have been in touch with the minister of culture and she has also committed a sum of money to deal primarily with the air-conditioning system. The immediate plan is to get the theatre operational and the budget for that is $40-$50 million. From there, we will think about getting it to be a first-class theatre."

The Ward Theatre, which was donated to the city of Kingston by Colonel C.J. Ward in 1912, was declared a national monument in January 2000.