The Queen Gets a New Do
But not everyone was happy with the choice of Gillespie and Steele, when the building’s original architect, Colin Laird, was still very much around. Architectural firms refused to tender on the grounds that Colin Laird’s original designs should not be touched. In an article in the Express, Anthony C Lewis and Associates stated that, “Good architecture and architects are not commodities and we try to avoid tampering with the work of other architects.”1
These contentions notwithstanding, plans for refurbishing the Hall went ahead apace.
The brief for the architects was quite specific. The iconic image of the roof was to be left as it was. Gillespie and Steele worked closely with Arup Acoustics, and the interior space was informed, first and foremost, by the acoustical requirements of a theatre. The smallest details, down to whether the stairs of the auditorium should be carpeted, were considered in reference to the acoustics.
In its most recent incarnation, the auditorium has lost nearly 200 seats, but the 800 or so seats are assured of greatly improved sightlines and sound; the auditorium has been enclosed and air conditioned; the stage is larger; the back stage area has more dressing rooms and a green room; the lobby area includes a bar and is much larger; and the Hall is now easily accessible to the physically challenged. Technically, Queen’s Hall is now the most sophisticated theatre in the Caribbean. Former Chairman of the Queen’s Hall Board, Margaret Walcott, says, “The Hall is everything that we wanted and more.”
The opening of the refurbished Queen’s Hall heralds a new and exciting phase in the Hall’s history. Technologically, it is the most advanced facility in the Caribbean, providing state-of-the-art equipment and all the accoutrement of a modern theatre, bringing its acoustics, lighting, stage and other technical facilities to a standard that equals major facilities worldwide. An enclosed air-conditioned environment provides additional comfort for performers and patrons alike in an auditorium with a 782-person seating capacity.
For my own part, I have found the Hall’s history to be replete with examples of enormous courage, faith and optimism in the people of Trinidad & Tobago. The continued existence of the Hall demonstrates the power of individual endeavour, as well as the ongoing need for partnership between the government and the citizenry.
Over the years, some of region’s most beloved and finest performers and designers have cut their teeth at the Hall: Derek Walcott, Carlisle Chang, Beryl McBurnie, Geraldine Connor, Aubrey Adams, Thora Dumbell, Wayne Berkley, Heather Headley, Edward Cumberbatch, to name a few. I hope it will continue to provide a forum for artists, entertainers and audiences to get together and do what they do best.