The world was spun upside down and just as construction workers were in the process of laying down the foundation of the Highlanders Steel Orchestra’s new pan theatre, when Covid-19 struck a hateful chord, tuning out a closure of what was considered non-essential business including construction.
Manager of Highlanders Robert Hernandez and his team waited years for negotiations to be completed with the National Petroleum (NP) to acquire the land, of which, a 99-year lease was eventually realised in 2018.
With keys handed over to the contractor in January 2020, works promptly began and a six-month end time was understood; that was before the shut-down in March.
It is anyone’s guess now when the new completion of the site—the corner of Williams Street and Eastern Main Road, Success Village, Laventille—will be, but pan must be here to stay and not the pandemic, as the scope of the artform can help revive T&T’s economy as similar to Trinidad Cement Ltd (TCL).
At this stage, they are “essential” to each other. Highlanders need products from TCL to afford completion of their multi-purpose pan theatre and TCL needs construction projects to help them restart their revenue streams.
“Our local and export customers are in desperate need of cement for building ‘essential’ infrastructure such as hospitals, roads, etc,” says TCL (Guardian Media Newsroom, May 14, 2020)
Ideally, included in essential infrastructure must/should be pan sites.
“We expect to play a key role in the revival of the T&T economy…Construction requires cement…and like the United Kingdom, using construction to try and kick-start their economy as they move from Covid-19 lockdown to resume economic activity,”
And so, T&T needs pan to help “kickstart the economy,” which can happen in several ways physically and virtually.
Two of the countless good and rewarding things that have emerged out of the social/physical-distancing, and work-from -home and stay-at-home practice are countries in far-flung proximities linked and created friendships they couldn’t have imagined from a physical plateau, and even the most intimidated or uninspired person to technology-use, has grasped the greatness, full advantage and, skills that benefit outcomes from the impenetrable use of technology.
Many parts of the world are yet to know of pan or get close to the real masters of pan—from T&T, the mecca. Some linkages were formed so it will prove wise to keep the momentum up rolling out the new normal of physical and virtual pan life, and hone some best-practices to establish well-designed pan programmes and appropriate online payment methods.
(Sandra L Blood)