“JULIANA” – A show fit for a president – by Francis Quamina Farrier

“JULIANA” – A show fit for a president, which Burnham would have enjoyed – by Francis Quamina Farrier

Francis Quamina Farrier

There were quite a number of Birthday Shows staged at the the National Culture Centre, for the late President Forbes Burnham; and as the Director of Drama at the Ministry of Culture, I was involved with most of them, either on stage or in the background, with the production team.

I was at the National Cultural Centre on Friday, July 28, 2017 for the show entitled “JULIANA”, which was staged for the Birthday of President David Granger. During the fast-paced production which included Music, Song, Dance and Choral Speaking, my mind flashed back to those earlier Presidential Birthday Shows which were staged for President Forbes Burnham, and which were very good.   

However, I have to say that “JULIANA” was an excellent show, which I am certain Burnham would have enjoyed, and which I would have loved to be a part of; but I was very late in making my desire known.

President Forbes Burnham, whose thirty second Death Anniversary is being observed today, was genuinely interested in the Arts; both the visual and performing Arts. It would be safe to say that Forbes Burnham was not just a lover of the Arts, but he was a Patron of the Arts as well.

All those artistes soon to leave for CARIFESTA in Barbados, should be well aware that it was President Forbes Burnham whose vision it was, some forty five plus years ago, to hold a Meeting of Writers and Artists of Caribbean background, to a meeting in Georgetown, where they exchanged views and ideas. The out-come of that, was CARIFESTA; the first being held right here in Guyana in 1972.

Now thirty two years after his passing, his vision of CARIFESTA, and the interacting of those in the Visual and Performing Arts, lives on. Although all of the CARIFESTAS have been great, those who were at the First CARIFESTA here in Guyana in 1972, still claim that it was the very best. The scope and the involvement of the widest range of artistes, was part of that achievement. There are also physical legacies such as “Carifesta Avenue” and “Festival City” in Georgetown.

Participating in CARIFESTA 1972, were those who were very young, those who were young adults, matured adults and most certainly the Elderly. Some of that no longer pertains, as the shift in more recent CARIFESTAS, is for the youth.  While the Youth should never be omitted, matured and elders should also be included. Burnham’s idea was for total inclusiveness in terms of the geography of the country, as well as the racial and age groups; in other words, somehow back then, Burnham wanted to have Social Cohesion in the Arts at all important State events.

It is known that President Forbes Burnham loved to attend various shows at the National Cultural Centre. He had a very special chair which was located at the immediate right of the center isle of the front row in the balcony. I took the opportunity to have a photograph taken of that chair, and the little side table attached to it, on which was placed his red phone for any emergency call; that was of course, long before the invention of cell phones.

On Friday night, July 28, there was group of students in the balcony, and I took the opportunity to tell them about that special chair which was sat in so many times by President Forbes Burnham, whenever he attended shows at the National Cultural Centre.

Seating for President David Granger for his Birthday Show, JULIANA, was different than it used to be for President Forbes Burnham; President David Granger sat in the front row in the auditorium. However, like President Burnham, at the end of the performance, President Granger went on stage and mingled with the cast members and thanked them for a job well done.


The chair in which President Forbes Burnham sat in for many years when attending shows at the National Cultural Centre. Observe the red phone stand at the right side of the chair.

President Forbes Burnham (at left) in discussion with members of the PSU Drama Group (Farrier partly backing camera)

President Forbes Burnham poses with members of the PSU Drama Group. Farrier is at the left of the president.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 08/13/2017 at 5:01 am
  • peter fraser  On 08/17/2017 at 2:12 pm

    Thank u Francis for sharing this event with me as well as the Historical pictures

  • C Griffith  On 08/21/2017 at 3:03 pm

    Uncle Francis, thanks for a wonderful description of the way it was. It goes without saying that Mr.Burnham and others including Dr.Claude Denbow were the Nation’s CULTURE BROKERS. Let’s not forget those competitive Sunday afternoon musical recitals in the Queens College High School auditorium where the piano and the violin were the featured instruments played by High School students.

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