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Barbados: Towards a Media Farm in 2012

 Caribbean Media Centre, Bridgetown (CMC)

A question mark need not follow that headline, as it so often appends itself to ideas on this and many other little rocks in the Atlantic pond.

I return to something I've been advocating and others have been talking about for some time now - a media farm: a single cooperative space where media artists and entrepreneurs can operate; a cottage industry in air-conditioned comfort; a one-stop shop for clients and creators - its eventual shape can be limited only by our imagination... and our resolve.

I know of many Barbadian producers and filmmakers who crave a place to lay their hats, grab face time in a conference room, 'hold a corner' for their creative engine room, get access to a decent printer/copier etc.

Picture a score of office enclosures, one-room suites and a central large space that's farmed out to occupants freely and at cost to outsiders - a soundstage or multicamera studio with audience bleachers, perhaps. Set builders could share backgrounds, cycs, screens, props, furniture - and ideas. Dozens of single proprietors and groups, one reception area, one watercooler, one green room, one peppercorn rent to keep the lights and the water on while the creators focus on ...well, creating.

With fellow creators in one shared space, one can envisage the networking (tech and social), the collaboration, the bartering, the real and tangible sharing that can leverage individual projects.

Sure, they'd all in one place doing their own thing but what if you as filmmaker were two doors down from an animator/illustrator, next door to a musician/composer, across from the guy with the green screen, with a copier (and coffee-maker) down the corridor?

For too long, too many media producers have been 'scotching' here and there, or shouldering rent and utility costs alone hoping that the bills will be paid with the next big... wedding? Commercial?

The Investment and Development Corporation, the government's industrial promotion agency and industrial estate landlord, only has 1.6 million sq. ft. of space with common services and half-decent parking. In the Harbour Industrial Park - one of a dozen in the country - much of the space was created for offshore IT firms, so many of whom have since deserted for Bangalore (it takes many more Indians than Bajans to screw in a light bulb for far less cost).

Imagine that many creators, freed of the distracting burdens of survival, can now leverage training, research and development, even funding for their projects. Rather than wait on the wealthy walk-in client, a creator can devote his time (he now has the space at his disposal) to create the content for which both risk and reward are shared.

So imagine 25 or 30 (I imagine many more) creative and productive Bajans sharing a space (and a nominal rent) that must surely be a lighter 'burden' on the state (for civil servants and politicians tend to see it that way, sadly) than waiting on the next Great White ICT Hope to occupy the space.

In 2003, the Barbados Government took the space recently vacated by one such fleeing hope - ICL Fujitsu - and created the Caribbean Media Centre for the not-for-profit, independent Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC). The centre was just an entire floor already cabled for networking with large rooms for editorial and commercial/administrative offices and a soundstage/studio/training room.

So they'd done it before for one organisation; it can do it again for scores of individual artists.

Who needs ever-declining FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) if the brothers and sisters are doing it for themselves? Bajans, contrary to popular self-belief, do cooperativism really well - if we really want to and are not limited by lack of imagination and drive. Just look at our billion-dollar credit union movement that can buy whole insurance companies - no wealthy expats need apply.

If we really want to.

And if all the above doesn't convince you, imagine the film and video association with its own home - provided by the State as evidence that it is really putting its money where its lipservice is in the 'cultural industries'.

And for the love of Jehovah/Allah/God/Man Upstairs, there's an old, old precedent of sorts - all those nice handicraft people beavering away a couple hundred metres from the IT-ready buildings; the Pelican craft centre that's 40 years old.

Competition and collaboration - like the human being and fish(?) - can co-exist peacefully. Sort of. Sometimes. If we really want to.

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