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Very few call him Kennedy, his given name, preferring the familiar and folksy “Boots”.
But whatever the name by which he was called, everyone recognised him as the face of the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) and a champion of arts and culture in Saint Lucia and the OECS.
Last Friday, Chairman of CDF Petrus Compton announced to CDF’s management and staff that the organisation’s most easily recognisable face was moving on.
Describing the moment as “painful”, the chairman acknowledged that “Boots’ had navigated the organisation through difficult times, in the face of many challenges and thanked him on behalf of the CDF, artistes and culture practitioners and the Saint Lucian community in general.
“Boots” came to CDF from his former position as executive director of the Folk Research Centre (FRC) with a strong background in traditional culture research and theatre.
He was a well known figure in the theatre renaissance of the 1980s that briefly threatened to recall the glory days of the 60s, when Saint Lucia held forth as a vibrant hub for theatre and the performing arts in general.
Notwithstanding the difficult conditions under which performing artists were expected to practice their craft in those days, “Boots” was a significant force, along with persons like Kendel Hippolyte, George “Fish” Alphonse, Hayden Forde, the deceased Lucia Peters, and a few others, who strove to ensure that Saint Lucian theatre remained alive.
Throughout his tenure with the CDF, “Boots” brought his trademark passion and tenacity to everything that he did, constantly and vocally challenging what he saw as a tendency to impose a notion of “modernity” that rejected things “Lucian” as valueless. He was a fighter for authenticity and relentlessly sought to ensure that a Saint Lucian flavour was at the heart of national events and celebrations.
Compton challenged “Boots” to look upon his departure from the CDF as an opportunity to refocus and to set sights upon new and more compelling vistas, and he assured that the CDF would continue to make use of the talents and experience that “Boots” had accumulated over the years, in its programming.
“Boots” in turn, expressed deep appreciation for the opportunity he had to serve the arts and culture from within the CDF and thanked the staff and the board for its support to him throughout his tenure. He expressed deep confidence in and support for the new direction that the organisation had taken, and exhorted management and staff to continue to work diligently along with the board to realise the important mandate which the CDF was charged with pursuing.
The CDF is expected to intensify its search for a suitable candidate to fill the shoes left vacant as “Boots” walks on.