This week, Trinidad and Tobago got news that Hazel Ward-Redman, a veteran television personality who encouraged the musical and artistic talents of generations of youth, had passed away after a long battle with cancer.
Her television programmes Twelve and Under and Teen Talent showcased the abilities of kids from all over the country – poetry, dance, music and singing were all standard fare – and launched the future careers of many who were passionate about the arts. Contestants went on to become writers, musicians and filmmakers. In 2006, when Trinidad and Tobago Television (the national broadcaster that produced Ward-Redman's shows) finally closed its doors, her colleague Neil Giuseppi reminisced:
And there was Auntie Hazel Ward whose cultural programmes set standards of excellence I attempted to follow in later years […]
Over the years, ttt became the breeding ground for many of this nation’s cultural icons. Programmes like Scouting for Talent, Mastana Bahar, Teen Talent, Twelve and Under, Mainly for Women and Indian Variety, continuously unearthed the great wealth of talent that resides in our twin-island Republic. Several of the country’s top artistes got their first public recognition through the screens of ttt.
Trinidad and Tobago will forever owe a debt of gratitude to people like Hazel Ward-Redman […] for their tremendous contributions to the development of the nation’s culture.
“Auntie Hazel”, as she was called, was honoured in a television documentary as one of the 50 most influential people in Trinidad and Tobago:
Tributes soon began to pour in via social media. On local radio station 96.1 WEFM's Facebook page, Ward-Redman was acknowledged for her work in television broadcasting. Commenters on the thread had fond memories of growing up watching her on television and commended her encouragement of young people. Anthony Brooks called her a “pioneer and trailblazer”, while Roma Sinanan described her this way:
Beautiful and exuberant spirit, so infectious that her personality was reflected on all who loved her and appreciated her tremendous contribution to our children of our land. Thank you and many blessings on your journey to the Source from which you came.
We have lost a valuable Icon today. Please stop for a moment and remember the light that was Aunty Hazel. May she rest in peace.
On Twitter, Patricia Worrell felt as if something significant had come to an end:
'End of an era' talk has become a bit of a cliché. But #HazelWard is dead, and it feels like the end of an era to many. RIP Aunty Hazel
— Patricia Worrell (@bytesdog) October 27, 2014
People who knew her personally or professionally flooded Facebook with tributes of their own – I was one of them:
Auntie Hazel Ward, thank you for understanding young people and encouraging their talent. I appeared (along with my guitar) as a guest artiste on one of the 12 and Under shows; Auntie Hazel always had a way of making you feel special. Farewell and God speed to a woman who did yeoman's service for music and the arts in this country.
Writer Lisa Allen-Agostini shared this anecdote:
I remember being on Teen Talent a million years ago. I auditioned at Newtown Girls and the accompanist Maurice Connors was so puzzled at my (ahem) unique vocal ability that he stopped halfway through and asked what I was singing. Aunty Hazel kindly asked me whether I had another talent. She let me return after half hour's practice in the yard, and loved my poetry. Not exactly a star is born but still. RIP Aunty Hazel.
My colleague, filmmaker Danielle Dieffenthaler, summed up her influence like this:
For a generation of us, she was the inspiration.
Hazel Ward-Redman's funeral is scheduled for this Saturday in San Fernando, the main city in south Trinidad.