Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Fifteen years later


Fifteen years ago today, on 15 September, 2006, Sean Leonard opened the driveway gate of the house at 80 Roberts Street, Woodbrook, and welcomed us all in to a place he had decided to call Alice Yard, after his great-grandmother Alice Gittens. It was, that first evening, a simple Woodbrook backyard, paved with concrete, with a laundry sink in the corner. He had offered this backyard as a venue for the artist Jaime Lee Loy to present a new artwork, a video installation, and in subsequent weeks and months Sean continued to offer Alice Yard to his peers as a space to imagine, converse, and play.

Fifteen years later, imagination, conversation, and play are still our motive and our method. Over the past decade and a half, Alice Yard has worked (and played) with many dozens of artists, musicians, writers, dancers, maspeople, filmmakers, curators, and others. Some spent a short time with us, some lingered for a while, some never went away. A year and a half ago, we left that backyard in Woodbrook and relocated to Granderson Lab — the former Granderson Bros. printery — on Erthig Road in Belmont, on the other side of Port of Spain. The move put to a practical test our belief that Alice Yard is not, essentially, a physical site, but a series of ideas and relationships — a practice, a process — a space and not a place, extending through and beyond Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Caribbean to include interlocutors and fellow instigators dispersed geographically around the world, but connected by intentions and affinities.

We are driven by curiosities rather than ambitions. We keep going because others keep stepping up and stepping in with ideas and questions we want to grapple with. Sometimes we’ve wished to move very fast, and sometimes we’ve deliberately chosen to slow down. The past fifteen years have been inspiring, challenging, occasionally exasperating, and never boring. We continue to dream, improvise, and argue with an always changing constellation of friends, colleagues, neighbours, and antagonists — to all of whom we say thanks.

On 15 September, 2006, the one thing we perhaps could not imagine — or didn’t need to — was that we’d still be doing this fifteen years later. Then, there was no destination in mind. Now, we’re still not there yet, and we’re still full of questions. Nothing could be more thrilling.