Published: May 21st 2011May 20th 2011
Another busy day today. After breakfast Margaret took Gary and I up to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. It would have been a very strenuous uphill walk so we were glad of the bus ride. The volcano as always was shrouded in cloud - I haven't managed to catch sight of the ominous dome that bubbles up and every so often collapses creating all sorts of havoc.
There we watched a film all about the volcano's activities since things got going in July 1995. Astonishing footage of eruptions, enormous black clouds of ash and the city of Plymouth in a state of emergency as everyone is told to evacuate. I have been hearing various personal tales of the volcano and the aftermath of it's explosions and expulsions, but this film put everything into context for me and I think shows clearly the science behind it as well as the island's personal trauma - the cramped conditions of the emergency shelters that eventually forced people to leave the island as for many months people were having to share makeshift accommodation. However meeting people here who went through it all, you see how they have determinedly set about rebuilding their lives whilst seeing
many friends and relatives leave. There also is, with the smaller community a close-knit feeling - the population is only 4500 so it's really like a large village. Nearly everyone who you pass will say hello, some will ask you how you are enjoying Montserrat. People leave there doors unlocked and leave keys in their cars - crime is very low here, especially compared to the other islands. In some ways the misfortunes of the natural disasters have meant the island has avoided the drugs gangs and growth of crime that is rife elsewhere in the Caribbean.
After the Observatory visit we went to see the rather derelict AIR Studios. Once a haven for musicians such as Sting/Police, Elton John, Paul McCartney and many others it has been left empty, open to the elements and victim of the termites and damp.
It's still open, but is apparently going to be boarded up as there are fears of the safety of anyone who goes in to have a look not to mention the liability. We did have a quick look round in spite of the warning sign outside. It must have been a great place to work in its
day but now the swimming pool now is full of green sludge and a dead toad and the studio is dark and smells of damp. Pretty much everything has been cleared out but there were still one or two tape reels strewn about.
After that I went to catch a bus into town. I had to wait a long time but eventually one turned up and I made it to the meeting on time. This time I was meeting Glen Francis, Director of Education, Herman Francis, Minister of Culture and McLoyd White (not sure how to spell his first name), music teacher. Again it was a useful meeting and I was able to get a more detailed idea of what is going on and what the ministry are hoping for out of this placement scheme. There will probably need to be some negotiations as I feel there are some discrepencies between Sir George's vision and that of some of the people I have met. However I think everyone has good aspirations and ambitions and they are very positive about the initiative in general, so I'm confident we can agree an arrangement that will keep everyone happy.
Belham valley - road
The river Belham is now a valley filled with rocks and ashy mud after a huge flow crashed down to the sea in Feb 2010
meeting I met with Carol at the Osborne's headquarters across the road and we drove via her house (to meet the dogs!) to the Govenor's residence. Adrian Davis and his wife Sue are quite new to the place but the feedback from the people who've lived through many Governors on the island all seem to think they are good news, and they certainly came across that way to me too. They have a piano in their large reception room which was the main reason they wanted me to visit, as they would like it to be used by the musician who comes over - perhaps for teaching or practice purposes. I rather clumsily managed a few bars of Lady Madonna, one of the few Beatles tunes I taught myself as a teenager at the height of my Beatlemania.
My final meeting of the trip was with Anne-Marie Dewar, Headmistress of St Augustine's primary school and we met over dinner at Olveston House. She had a very good sense both of what Sir George was wanting to achieve and what the ministry of Education had in mind and so it was really useful talking through the options and looking at
where compromises might be needed in order to make the objectives realisable. It was a very positive ending to the week for me.
I feel very lucky to have been given this task. Not only the connection to George Martin, who I have the greatest admiration for, but also in this short week I feel I've made a lot of friends and discovered a very special place. It was quite a squeeze fitting in all the sight-seeing I could amongst the meetings and visits, but I've done very well. I have been incredibly well looked after by Margaret and Carol at Osborne House. The food is fantastic and they have gone out of their way to help me find my way and ensure I met the people I needed to meet. I'm sorry to be leaving but, fingers crossed, I'll get a chance to come back!
There are more photos below