May 05, 2007

Take charge of public spaces!

Durga Gopalan runs 'Kadambam' store in Besant Nagar. She converted a Housing Board twin-house into a shopping space at a time when this area was turning into a shopping zone of the neighbourhood.
Durga also developed a nice lawn at the rear and has hit upon a new idea.
To use the lawn as a space for cultural and spoken events.
She put it to the test recently. A show of the works of the students of design at Stella Maris College Fine Arts Department was a huge success, she says. Almost all the clothes and accessories that the young girls had displayed were sold and some even got orders.
And then she hosted a young artiste who specialises in 'cross-over' music and hosted his concert on the lawns.
Perhaps this show could well be the beginning of a series of events and thus create a space in this neighbourhood for the arts.
I bumped into Sadanand Menon, art critic, writer and lighting designer this week and asked him if there were plans to promote the theatre space of the late dancer-choreographer Chandralekha at her No.1, Elliots Beach Road residence and studio. There is a nice stage here and Menon said that once some repairs were attended to, the space could be used to have shows.
I have often lingered on what was once a cute, Mangalore-tiled house built on the sands at the south end of Elliots Beach for a previous governor of this state and never put to good use. It was allowed to be vandalised.
It could easily have been turned into a space for cultural activities for our children and for theatre and music concerts on weekends.
There are lots of open, developed public spaces in our neighbourhoods. But little happens here.
I would not fault the city Corporation if these places are going to seed.
The blame lies with the communities who own these spaces.
It has been a year since the Corporation constructed a stage with a roof at its playground in Besant Nagar. Nobody can tell us why a stage was built here in the first place. However when some theatre groups I knew showed interest in using the space to host short plays once a month, I went back to the zonal chairman to goad him to take the next step - fix a rental fee for the use of this space.
In some neighbourhoods, communities have begun to use the local parks for concerts, yoga sessions, laughter binges and talks.
It is time we took charge of our playgrounds and stages too.
Perhaps theatre groups like Masquerade, The Madras Players and Koothu-p-pattarai can take the initiative.

1 comment:

Prakash Shivshankar said...


Like the Besant Nagar hall mentioned by you, there may be more spaces that were built with some initial enthusiasm and which must be presently lying idle due to lack of activity over there.

Such unused spaces can be put into much better use if the residents can run some programme on a regular basis for their children rather than use it once or twice a year for some function.

One such activity is chess meet. Children who know chess can come with their chess sets to the hall and assemble and play in pairs. After a game is over, they can change opponents and go for the next game.

The unused halls like Besant Nagar community hall can be put to use for children of the locality to assemble on a regular basis and play chess.

To run chess meet, a regular time to begin and end the activity should be fixed. A resident who knows the rules of the game can be present at the hall to monitor the activity and to announce wind up when the allocated time is over. When chess meet is conducted this way adhering to time discipline, children can pursue their interest in chess on a regular basis without its affecting their studies.

This way, the game can be promoted as well as idle halls can be put to good use with regular chess play activity.