Friday, September 02, 2016

“A backyard on a small island”

My colleagues Sean Leonard, Christopher Cozier, and I cherish this photo — taken in late 2006 by the Trinity College exchange-student photographer Ivan R. Belcic — because it reminds us that Alice Yard began as, and remains, simply “a backyard on a small island.” Ten years ago at 80 Roberts Street, Woodbrook, Port of Spain, there was no gallery, no residency living quarters, no annex studio space, no sign. There was a paved yard with an old concrete laundry sink. There was a physical location made available by Sean, and there was an idea for a space where artists, musicians, and others could meet, converse, exchange, make, perform, imagine, play. There was a name: Alice Yard. There were many questions. There were many possibilities — more than we could yet realise.

Ten years later — after hundreds of events and projects and actions, performances and mas bands, thousands of conversations — Alice Yard is still a Woodbrook backyard. It is still a space of questions and possibilities. It is, thanks to Sean and his family, a space of radical generosity. It is a space to investigate ideas of openness and intellectual freedom. It is a space for play.

As we mark Alice Yard’s tenth anniversary this month, “our instinct,” as we’ve written elsewhere, “is less to celebrate and more to affirm our spirit of investigation and exchange, our ethos of generosity and independence.” My own predominating feelings are astonishment — ten years! how? — and enduring gratitude: to Sean and Chris, to the innumerable others who have entered and engaged in some way with our space, and for the immeasurable enrichment of my own thought and imagination over the past decade.

After ten years, we still have no idea where this will go: that’s the most exciting thing of all.

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