Alfred Pragnell: Barbados’ Best Storyteller
Alfred Pragnell was born in Guyana but eventually settled in Barbados and made it his home. He grew up in Chelsea Road, a middle class district in Barbados and attended the Combermere Secondary School. He was affectionately known as “AP” and was a multitalented individual known for his broadcasting, acting, calypso singing and storytelling abilities. One of the most loved works of Alfred Pagnell was his hilarious “Proper Pork” Carlton Supermarket commercials. His acting style was revered among his peers as he could add life, colour and character to whatever he performed due to his unique voice and performance style.
Pragnell’s career began in 1956 with Barbados Redifussion, a British firm with a station in both Barbados and British Guiana. His voice was admired island wide as it had a soothing tone complimented with impeccable pronunciation. One of the programmes he hosted in Barbados was Sunday Magazine, where he would play a number of oldies and classic tracks and coupled the music with intelligent monologues. The music played on his programme and on Barbados Redifussion in general was a decent change of pace from the usual up tempo music played on other Barbadian music stations. His radio programmes were not only broadcast locally but throughout the Eastern Caribbean region as well. Later, Barbados Rediffusion became known as Voice of Barbados (as it is still known today). Pragnell became Program Manager, a role which he fulfilled until what was an early retirement in 1988. He stayed on, however, as a consultant, training and shepherding a new generation of radio announcers.
As stated previously, Pragnell also dabbled in acting. He was a member of the Greenroom Players, a group of amateur theatre individuals, bringing together both white and black Barbadians on the theatre stage. He also read many of the poems written by Jeannette Layne-Ckarke about Bajan hypocrisy and gossipy practices, reading them with a verve that only he could, almost bringing them to life. Layne-Clarke, in a tribute at his funeral said: “AP — as he was affectionately known — had a distinct distaste for sloppiness, and he was perpetually disturbed by the cocky, cavalier attitudes flaunted by so many pretenders in today’s laid-back work environment” (Faria, 2004 in The Guyana Chronicle).
Pragnell’s most documented works are in the area of storytelling, where he made a great contribution to that segment of Barbados. His stories are not only funny, but they provide a unique insight into Barbadian life of yesteryear.
Additionally, Alfred Pragnell has been called the “Brains behind the Holetown Festival”. Pragnell had a long standing desire to commemorate the settlement at Holetown and therefore as a result of his efforts and commitment, the Holetown festival was born in 1976 and has grown from strength to strength every year. Due to his contribution to media and the arts in Barbados, he has been somewhat immortalised with his works and pieces still available to the general public. Catch one of his famous short stories, “How Maisie Ross Get Save” on Youtube where you can find many of his pieces.
Pragnell eventually died at the age of 71.
©Article of Caribbean Dreams Magazine
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