Naming controversy

The 42-year-old auditorium of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is set to be named after National Hero and Father of Independence Errol Barrow, but the high honour is being shrouded in controversy.

The party founded by Barrow and others in 1955 is hosting a week of activities, including a “naming ceremony of George Street Auditorium” to coincide with Errol Barrow Day on January 21, but a WhatsApp message purporting to be from Barrow’s son David claims the “renaming” went against his father’s wishes.

A section of the message stating “ . . . this is the George Street Auditorium. It is not to be named after the DLP or me or anyone else. It is for the benefit of the party and the people of Barbados . . . who should be able to use it without thinking that they have to be beholden to the DLP” is attributed to Errol Barrow by the author.

The message writer said the edifice already had the name “The George Street Auditorium” and therefore the authors of the DLP’s announcement should have been “bold enough” to call the event a “renaming”, lest others believed the present name was “descriptive only”.

“It is visionary that the current name would be as non-partisan as it is possible to be in Barbados so as to enhance its wider commercial attractiveness which has benefited the party over the last approximately 40-plus years. I do not see how you can honour Errol Barrow by dishonouring his express wishes and yet seek to cloak yourselves in his legacy,” the WhatsApp read.

In response, DLP general secretary Steve Blackett said that an invitation had been extended to the family of Barrow for Friday’s “naming” ceremony, and the first he heard of any objection was yesterday upon receiving an email from David Barrow.

“Of course, out of courtesy, an invitation was extended to the Barrow family to attend the ceremony. I’m seeing only for the first time this morning an email that came to me from David Barrow stating such,” he told the DAILY NATION in relation to whether concerns were raised by family members.

Blackett said there has never been a particular name attached “to the edifice that is the George Street auditorium” and its naming was not something the leadership of the party was doing on its own, as a resolution from the St Michael South Central branch went before the DLP’s 68th Annual Conference in August.

“The resolution stated emphatically that it was about time the auditorium was named after one of the founding fathers of our party and the Father of Independence, Errol Walton Barrow. This was a resolution tabled, debated, discussed and passed by the annual conference, the highest decision-making body of the party outside of the General Council,” he said.

Robert “Bobby” Morris, historian and former Member of Parliament who was part of the Barrow’s ruling DLP parliamentary team in 1986, confirmed Barrow’s sentiment in relation to the building when it was opened on April 10, 1981. He felt the son’s concerns were valid.

“The important thing is whether they are going to honour what Barrow’s son said. The annual conference might be misguided. If a gentleman says to you, this is what my father said and I expect it to be honoured . . . my simple thing is that you have to honour what Errol Barrow said. There can’t be any question about that,” he said.

Blackett said the highest decision-making body of the party recommended by resolution that the naming of the auditorium after Errol Walton Barrow and “we cannot second guess the highest decision-making body of the party. As we start to do that, we are going to run ourselves in deep, deep trouble.”

A check of media reports on the opening in 1981 cites Barrow as stating: “We hope this place will be a lasting monument to the arts and be enjoyed by all Barbadians, not only those in the political parties, but those who are making a cultural contribution.

“We do not intend to rent out the auditorium for functions such as dances . . . . Only three functions of the nature of dances will be held each year, during Barbados’ Independence celebrations, during the party’s anniversary and on New Year’s Eve.”

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