Pull Quote: “People don’t know what goes on here; a lot of people just don’t know. Nobody don’t really think of how things get done, but I would like some people to come at the back to see the changes that got to be made for you to have a show.”

By Sharmain Grainger

Conspicuously sprawled on a plot of land situated at the eastern end of Homestretch Avenue is one of the capital city’s outstanding landmarks – the National Cultural Centre. Having opened its doors in 1976, the edifice, with its 2,000-odd seating capacity, has been the venue for many events ranging from award ceremonies to theatrical shows.

Descending from the Fly Gallery


To date, it continues to be one of the most highly booked venues, and is likely to retain that status with plans expected to soon take shape to have it assume a more modernised flair.
But it hasn’t merely been because of its unique external design or spacious interior that the National Cultural Centre has remained one of the most distinguished entertainment spots in the country. The secret behind this achievement has been nestled in the capable hands of staffers, especially those who work behind the scenes.
Among those opting to remain out of the limelight, but crucial to the functioning of the facility, is 67-year-old Bernard Chung. Chung has been unsparingly giving his time, energy and love to the Cultural Centre over the years, and, according to him, during a recent interview, “I will continue to do my work here, once I have health and strength. this; I never think about leaving here since I started, not one day,” Chung reflected.
A key staff member, Chung described his field of expertise as “the most dangerous part of the theatre…I was trained under a white guy, and I trained other young people, but some of them stay for two years and leave,” said Chung.
Although he reached the age of retirement more than a decade ago, Chung’s acquired expertise and I love what I’m doing here, so I can keep on doing laudable work ethics saw the administrators of the facility asking for him to return. With an to continue to do his part to ensure that the National Cultural Centre continues to live up to its outstanding reputation. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.


As patriotic as they come


Bernard Chung is a ‘Special Person’FORMATIVE YEARS

Born on August 11, 1952, Bernard Chung was raised in East Ruimveldt, Georgetown. Asked about his boyhood memories, he appeared to settle into deep thought; his rolling eyes seemed to betray him as he sifted through vaults of memories in the hope of presenting the ones that best suit the moment.
He didn’t speak much of his family back in the day, except to reflect on being the third of six children his father, Lewis Chung, and stepmother, Ilene Daniels, raised.
But he fondly reminisced on being a pupil of St Pius Primary. “The teachers at the school were strict… we had to go to school for 8am and when you go late you had to join a line to collect yuh licks,” Chung recalled amidst a throaty chuckle.
A smile formed on his face as he remembered having a healthy passion for football and cricket, much like other young boys his age, back then.
By the time he’d graduated from St Pius School, Chung told how his father, a supervisor at a sawmill in Kingston, Georgetown, wanted him to learn a skill that could help land him a job with a decent income.


In the company of his supervisor, Stage Manager, Mr. Ansford Patrick [third from left] and other staff members“My father had a friend who was a goldsmith and he [father] wanted me to learn to be a goldsmith too, but I just didn’t take it in…for some reason or the other I just didn’t like it,” Chung recounted.
Since it was required of him to find some form of employment to contribute to the household, the young Chung searched and was eventually accepted to fill a vacancy in the operating room at the then Robb Street, Georgetown Metropole cinema. “The film for the projector had to be upside down…it used to have a scratch at the end of the film so you would know when to change to the other one,” said a nostalgic Chung, as he spoke of learning everything he needed to know to retain that job.

He would work there for a couple of years, mastering the art of reeling films, and indeed his proficiency was well recognized. This saw him being selected to take charge of the operating room when his employers subsequently opened the Hollywood Cinema in Kitty.
But Chung later parted ways with the film reeling life to take up a part-time job at the Guyana Rice Marketing Board. “I was just a normal worker there,” he quipped, when asked about his time there. “I used to catch rice coming down a chute and when you catch it then you had to throw it to another guy,” he explained of his “Rice Board” employment.’
However, when a friend told him about the possibility of him landing a job at the spanking new cultural centre that had just opened its doors, Chung jumped at the opportunity which, years later, morphed into a passion that he fully embraces even today.
“It was a Sunday morning and I was home, and a friend come over by me and say ‘man you ain’t want a steady wuk?’, I say why not man…I come here [National Cultural Centre] and work and I never left. I come on as labourer, I get a few promotions – promotion to stagehand and

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Explaining how the Fly Gallery works

then I got promoted to Fly Gallery,” said Chung, as his eyes quickly glanced across the backstage area where he stays hidden away doing his part just so the show can go on.
Behind the scenes, Chung is the man who ensures that all of the backdrops and banners are in the right places at the right time. As he gave me a tour around backstage and then up three flights of stairs to the Fly Gallery, Chung explained that it is all about the “weights”.
“I would hang up the stuff depending on how much weight it got; I would know how much weight to put in…Even if you want to come down from the ceiling in a swinger for a show, I know how much weight I dealing with… If you have 150 pounds, I would know how much weight to put in to balance it and carry it up in the air,” Chung said, as he, with darting fingers, eagerly explained his work in the Fly Gallery. This “most dangerous” area backstage is where Chung is able to work the magic of the ensuring that things are fixed just right to suit the occasion.
“People don’t know what goes on here; a lot of people just don’t know. Nobody don’t really think of how things get done, but I would like some people to come at the back to see the changes that got to be made for you to have a show,” said Chung. He admitted that he has a very deep passion for what he does.
It was for this very reason that he didn’t mind resuming his duties after he retired at the stipulated age of 55. “When I retire, they send and call me back…The young people who come here to work, they don’t stay on the job long. Most of these young people nowadays they don’t really want to stay one place…and this work does take up most of your time; you can’t get to go out and dem sort of things,” Chung shared.
Even though his job has been demanding over the years, Chung, 22 years ago, met and married the love of his life, Juliet Ramotar. Their union yielded, one son – Devon, but ended tragically earlier this year when Juliet, after a brief illness, was “called away to be with the Lord.” Choking back tears, Chung recalled “she was in church and ‘take in’ with a stroke and they rush her to the hospital. She stay in hospital a couple of days and then she died”.
Despite the hurt, over the past few months Chung has had to be tough, not only for Devon, but for his stepchildren who were mothered by his now departed wife. “We does help each other out, they are big children now and the boy [Devon] he’s going to Vreed en Hoop Secondary School,” said Chung, as tears welled in his eyes.
Although still grieving over the loss of his wife, Chung finds solace in executing, to the best of his abilities, a job he secured 43 years ago. According to him, when he finds time to reflect on his past, he is convinced that the young version of himself made the right choice to remain committed to the national cause of helping to keep the National Cultural Centre going.
Moreover, for his years of dedication and meticulous contribution over the years, today we at Kaieteur News bestow Mr. Bernard Chung with our title of ‘Special Person’.

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