Thursday, 7 October 2010

St Helena and Napoleon's Bicentenary : Let's Just Do It

I have always given a link to the Friends of St Helena's website on this blog, but until recently have never actually got round to filling in the membership forms.

I don't know why it has taken so long. I could claim that it is because all its events are held in the south of England. Apart from occasionally passing through en route to far away places, I can only recall visiting London twice in 20 years!

That is probably just an excuse though.

Anyway, prompted by a certain French man who I believe has never himself visited St Helena, I have now joined.

What is more I have buried my prejudices, or some of them at least, and I hope to be in London on 16th October for the Friends' meeting on "Napoleon and His Time on St Helena 1815-1821."

Amongst the information sent by the Friends is the booklet "Let's Just Do It", produced by Hazel Wilmot, who is I believe the new owner of the Consulate Hotel in Jamestown.

What an interesting read. Written in 2021, it looks back on St Helena's development since 2010. You may have to read that twice!

In 2021 the new Bicentennial Airport is being opened on Prosperous Bay Plain. Apparently there has in the meantime been the development of a small daytime airfield at Horse Pasture, which was opened in 2011 or maybe 2012, and gave Saints quick access to medical facilities in South Africa. This airport is now far too small, hence the building of the new one. Among the many other developments have been the lifting of previous restrictions on immigration, a rise in population to 6000, the development of two new retirement villages, the relocation of a number of banks from the politically less stable African continent and so on.

I was interested to see the pride of place given to Napoleon in the opening passage.

Liverpool has its John Lennon Airport, so why should St Helena not have one associated with the captivity and death of its most famous resident? I would not hold my breath over that one!

Certainly the work of preserving and developing the Napoleonic sites has at best been peripheral to the concerns of Government and most Saints.

Hazel Wilmot however, perhaps because she is a newcomer as well as an astute business woman, seems to have instantly grasped the significance of the Napoleonic heritage for the future of St Helena.

It will be interesting to look back in 2021 and see what has actually been achieved.

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