New Cultural Development Officer role for former Radio and TV sweetheart, Davina Barbara.
Her deep warm voice had become a familiar sound at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime in our homes, when we switched on the radio or the telly for news, so you might have noticed Davina Barbara missing from our screens, busy waving her mic at her interviewees or reviewing the latest pièce de théâtre.
After an almost eighteen-year-long career as broadcast journalist at GBC, Davina has been appointed Cultural Development Officer, a new role created by Gibraltar Cultural Services (culture.gi) to boost the already varied offer on the plate. A cultural programme of courses, exchanges, residencies, amongst other platforms, for youngsters, the general public and tourists alike.
“This is the opportunity for me to focus solely on culture, which is my main area of expertise by university training and experience,” History of Art graduate Davina says, “and for me to grow professionally.”
The pace has surely changed since her days at GBC, where everything happens ‘here and now’, and reporters run the fast lane, and plans are made just to constantly update them. While Davina’s new role is still busy and buzzing, yes, there is more room for planning, and looking ahead to the middle-distance future is actually a big chunk of her job.
“I love being kept on my toes and I relish the challenge, so I am always on the ball, even evenings and weekends. When my son was just eight-months old, I returned to work to present the Breakfast Show; those were early starts, but late finishes were also common in the Newsroom. I am now used to flexible hours, and wouldn’t do it otherwise. Culture doesn’t stop, and nor can I.”
When she took up her post last November she was thrown in at the deep end with her press supervision of the Literary Festival, when the head press officer Stuart Green was suddenly summoned to travel to London with the Chief Minister for Brexit talks and couldn’t be in attendance. “Social media presence is paramount nowadays, and I and the team are kept busy posting photos and comments or tweeting about the day before and the one ahead.”
Barely a trimester in the job, and nipping in and out the Drama Festival, the Youth Arts Jamboree and Worlds Book Day, the new Culture Development Officer is applying the finishing touches and working to develop initiatives to spring and summer projects. First of all, the Arts Jamboree for young people is returning with new hands-on opportunities and a chance to learn from success stories, meet local artists, and be exposed to their artwork; later the Island Games Arts Residency will paint the John Mackintosh Hall red and all colours of the rainbow hosting figurative and performing artists from the countries participating in the Games. This isn’t a new project, and in fact Gibraltar has participated in previous editions, but of course it is the first time it happens here, and local artists will have the opportunity to work together and exchange ideas with islander artists worldwide. This will be complemented by a retrospective on Gibraltar’s participation in past Island Games, set up in cooperation with the Gibraltar Chronicle.
Both the Arts Jamboree and the Arts Residency are non-competitive, so participants can cooperate and learn from each other. The Arts Jamboree is promoting inclusion and opportunities, in view of transmitting and acquiring skills that will indeed be useful and perhaps used in future competitions. All arts will hopefully be involved, with the opening of GEMA vaults for workshops, and a treasure hunt expected to take children and parents from gallery to gallery in search of hidden masterpieces, among many other events.
“We are also promoting the Art Galleries tour with tourists – after all, we’ve six original Christian Hook’s paintings here, and he is an international artist nowadays. The tour will include a walk through Casemates, Irish Town and the City Hall Gallery, getting youngsters active in this way too.”
Davina and her team won’t organise every single cultural event in Gibraltar, but they will facilitate them, liaising with private entities and cultural or charity associations and providing access to the calendar of events to make sure various events don’t clash. One of their future planned projects is an Arts Awards Scheme, akin to the one already running in the UK, and structured like the Duke of Edinburgh Awards but focusing exclusively on arts: research, performance and essays about, or inspired by, local artists, are encouraged, in the view of scouting, nurturing, and training future arts leaders. Furthermore, cultural awards to recognise talent and success are also on the agenda, complementary to the Sports and Heritage awards, but specific to the arts.
From her lengthy and varied career at GBC, Davina treasures too many memories to mention, and the ‘friendships for life’ she forged, because the workplace wasn’t ‘just a job, but an extended family’; surely she had her highlights, from compèring Summer Nights karaoke with James Neish to her adventurous scoop on Peter Hain’s interview, when she was barely one year in the job: “I managed to get my two-minutes-worth of airtime with him, questioning him about what I believed Gibraltar wanted to ask him, and drove the van back to Broadcasting House in my six-inch heels to deliver the goods on time for the news bulletin.”
We wish you the best of luck in your new role, Davina!