Woodvines upcoming performances

Sunday March 15th in duo with Stefan Van den Bossche 7:30 - 9:30 Waters edge restaurant BougainvilleaHotel

March 28th and 29th Harrison College Mosaic II at the Frank Collymore hall

Saturday, 8 June 2013

L'Atrium - a look Inside Martinique's centre for the arts

Like everywhere else in the world, I'm sure that the French Caribbean island of Martinique has it's good and bad, and that some Martiniquans may enjoy being a part of France and others might even lean more towards independence. In my opinion however, there's one thing that France and Martinique really get right, and that is their commitment to the development of arts and culture.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the splendid Martinique cultural centre called L'Atrium.

Completed in 1998 and conceived by Fanny Augiac the Directrice of Martinique's national cultural agency (known as CMAC - Centre Martiniquais d'Action Culturelle) this multipurpose facility contains two concert halls, an art gallery, rehearsal spaces, a cafe and large open corridors for exhibitions.

All of this is surrounded on the upper floors by CMAC's administrative offices.

A panoramic shot taken from my position during sound check for a recent Fal Frett concert

The larger of the two concert halls is called the Salle Aimé Césaire and has 957 seats arranged on a ground floor, side 'boxes' and balcony. The smaller hall, called the Salle Frantz Fanon has 270 seats.

What I find very clever about the building's design is that the two concert halls are situated on opposite sides of a huge shared central stage. The Atrium's official website  lists the hall's stage areas as 420 and 225 square meters respectively, however I've observed that there are huge movable walls dividing the stage that can be set to create different stage depths on each side. The Larger hall has excellent wings, (The stage doors could probably accommodate a cement truck!), plenty of room for sets and the lighting can easily be adjusted by lowering the lighting rigs located above the stage. The stage's dividing walls are acoustically treated allowing events to be staged in each hall simultaneously.

A panoramic view taken while undergoing sound check

In the downstairs foyer of the L'Atrium is a ticket office, an art gallery, a cafe, open corridors for exhibitions of large sculptures and elevators to the offices above.
On many occasions I have had the pleasure of both performing and attending concerts in this hall and I've always found the acoustics to be very pleasing.

There are a few areas where the building needs some attention. Some of the seats need reupholstering and the dressing rooms are in a sad state. Parking can be a challenge in Fort-de-France even for performers trying to use the L'Atrium's facilities.

Whenever I return home from a performance in L'Atrium, I can't help but wonder when, if ever we might create a similar structure in Barbados. After hearing for the past 25 years, the empty words of successive Barbadian governments promising the creation of a reasonably sized performing hall, I no longer think that any government in Barbados has the motivation or vision to create a Barbadian "Atrium". If we in the arts wish to see this happen then we can't wait on a government initiative. We need a Barbadian "Fanny Augiac", cooperation between the private sector, government and all those involved in the arts, and of course a significant financial investment.

Who knows maybe one day in the future, a musician in another island will blog about his visit to a wonderful center for the performing arts in Barbados 


  1. I believe Barbados can build one of these. Right now the concert hall, Prince Cave Hall, has way out grown its use, and the number of concerts held there has taken a toll on the structure and resources. I usually say that the band needs a bigger performance hall and quite recently I heard through the great vine that the Government is looking to build a ten thousand seat concert hall. whether true or not, this is the kind of performance hall the Band needs, minus the 'red tape' experience. Thanks for the photos, I pray the 'right people' see and take them into consideration.

  2. Thanks for your comment Marlon, I too believe that Barbados could build it's own version of an "Atrium" I'm not holding my breath though :)

  3. iIT IS about time (more than 20 years that talk was going on) that a National Gallery was established in Barbados to house the extensive existing collection . This is something to be proud of and should be made available to everyone . in the past selections were on view in the now defunct ZEMICON GALLERY and the reception was good. It is valuable for students artists and those interested to be able to react to learn from and react to what is a national treasure. I did show work at the ATRIUM and was pleased to see the cross section of the community that attended, including children.

    stanley Greaves.