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Published on January 20th, 2016 | by TandT Newsday Newspapers


Despers is Laventille

Ten-time National Panorama champions Desperadoes Steel Orchestra will return to its treasured headquarters at Upper Laventille Road, Laventille — permanently — long before Carnival 2017. For manager Curtis Edwards, it will be a watershed moment for steelband from the “Hill” – a time to reflect on its successes over the past 70 years and make projections for the future.  “We are expecting that the building will be completed by June and the we will have a formal opening and the legacy will continue,” an elated Edwards told Sunday Newsday on Wednesday shortly before the start of a Despers practice session at the former site of the Greyfriars Church of Scotland on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain.

Businessman Alfred Daly, who purchased the plot of land which recently housed the church, gave members of the band permission to use the compound, free of charge, for their practice sessions over the Carnival season. The band had, within the past few years, held practice sessions for Carnival at the National Insurance Board carpark at the corner of Cadiz Street and Queen’s Park East, Belmont. Although it was largely felt that Desperadoes was forced to move from its headquarters because of the crime situation, Edwards made it clear that while violence was a major concern for some members, the band simply needed more space for practice.

He said the band, at full strength for Panorama competitions, simply outgrew its panyard. Edwards said because of the confined space, there also were implications for the quality of sound in its various selections for competition.
“I guess the PR (public relations) system was not robust enough to convey that at the time,” he said in relation to the band’s decision to leave Laventille for practice sessions.  “But through it all, we were still based in Laventille from Ash Wednesday,” he said.  The refurbished building at Upper Laventille Road, Edwards said, will be a one-storey structure, “20- feet off the ground.” “The ground floor of the building will be used for everyday practice but the first-storey will be used for major Carnival sessions and other events. From there, we will be able to see Venezuela,” Edwards joked, adding that the facility will be equipped with several new amenities, which he preferred not to reveal at this time. Edwards, who assumed the position of manager, last June, said while the headquarters will retain its original grandeur, “we will see a different Desperadoes.” He said Laventilleans were excited about the prospect of the band returning to its home base (below the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima) permanently.

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