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Medicine for the soul needed at Sabina Park

Monday, April 19, 2021

Without question, art plays special restorative and therapeutic roles in people's lives. It becomes even more important during times of trouble, such as now in the era of COVID-19.

Hence, our applause for an initiative tagged 'Paint up yu creative space' — a partnership involving the Ministry of Culture, the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation, and the Mexican Embassy, which has facilitated colourful murals in sections of Kingston.

In the latest project we are told that murals are being done at Jamaica's iconic headquarters of cricket, Sabina Park, to capture and embrace Jamaican life and achievements on and off the field.

Beyond the 'medicine for the soul' to come from such artistic expression, Culture Minister Ms Olivia Grange believes material benefits can accrue when a vibrant visitor industry returns, post-COVID-19.

“There will be tours to Sabina Park,” Ms Grange tells us.

Many readers will recall a previous mural on South Camp Road on the eastern wall of Sabina Park developed decades ago, which depicted great achievers and achievements. That artwork faded with time.

Beyond the current mural, we wish to remind of age-old plans for a museum at Sabina Park aimed at appropriately reflecting its glorious past.

In 2013, when current president of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) Mr Wilford “Billy” Heaven first took office, this newspaper recalled that overriding need.

We said then: “It is mind-boggling that, decades after the need became obvious, there is still no museum at Sabina Park.

“Incredibly, too, Sabina Park — which dates back to the 1800s as the venue for some of the more enthralling episodes in the history of cricket — is not a scheduled tour stop for visitors from England and other cricket-playing countries.

“Just as a reminder, Sabina Park was the venue for Sir Garfield Sobers' then world record of 365 against Pakistan in 1958. Sabina was host to the celebrated timeless Test of 1930 which lasted nine days, with the last two days being rained out. Historians say the game was eventually called off because the England team had to catch their ship to go home. That game underlined the emergence of Mr George Headley as the first of the truly great West Indian batsmen. He made a second innings 223…”

We could recount many other great cricket stories relating to Sabina Park. But also, that venue was never only about cricket. In fact, prior to the opening of the National Stadium in 1962, most major sporting events in Jamaica took place at Sabina.

This newspaper has said previously, and we say again, that the JCA, working with Government and private sector, needs to tell Sabina's story using all available memorabilia and artefacts, depicted through old and new technologies, by way of a state-of-the-art museum. Such a project would complement the ongoing artwork.

We are aware of plans by Kingston Cricket Club to develop a museum and other facilities at Sabina Park. Those plans, we suspect, may have been hamstrung by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But if that mix could be combined with high-quality cricket/sport, a proper restaurant and other entertainment, the ground at South Camp Road could very quickly become another popular attraction for visitors and locals.

We are well aware that any such project will take vision, the will to get things done, and a recognition of the value of history to society's development.