The Queen’s Park Savannah: heart of a city

The Queen's Park Savannah is the heart and lungs of the Trinidad and Tobago capital, Port of Spain. A huge open space between downtown and the Northern Range, it is the favourite haunt of joggers and walkers, footballers and cricketers, connoisseurs of coconuts, roast corn and oysters, skateboarders and kite- flyers. A former sugar estate preserved for the people, the Savannah is to Port of Spain what Central Park is to New York. Marlon Rouse captures some of its many moods

Carnival masqueraders wait their turn to cross “The Big Stage” at the Savannah. Photograph by Marlon RouseDusk in “The Hollows”, the Savannah’s north-western corner. Photograph by Marlon RouseEarly morning by the St Ann’s roundabout. Photograph by Marlon RouseInside the Grandstand at the Savannah – a venue for anything from Carnival parades to mega concerts and itinerant preachers. Photograph by Marlon RouseLocal delicacies such as pholourie, accra and shark-and-bake are much sought after finger foods sold by the Savannah vendors. Photograph by Marlon RouseOysters, roast corn, corn soup – it’s amazing what you can feed on – round the Savannah. Photograph by Marlon RousePink and yellow poui trees in bloom, a frequent sight between January and May. Photograph by Marlon RouseSavannah skyscape. Photograph by Marlon RouseStollmeyer’s Castle (1904) looks like a Scottish baronial castle. Photograph by Marlon RouseThe Savannah “pitchwalk” is a favourite track for walkers and joggers. Photograph by Marlon RouseThe Savannah is used for all sorts of sports, especially cricket and football. Photograph by Marlon RouseThe Savannah’s most famous snack: coconuts (now served ice-cold by some vendors if you prefer). Photograph by Marlon Rouse

If you stand in downtown Port of Spain — the hectic, pulsing business centre of Trinidad — and start walking north, you’ll get to the Queen’s Park Savannah in less than 20 minutes. As you stroll along, you’ll find that the city’s industriousness slowly falls away, until you arrive at the breathtaking verdant lushness of an 80-hectare park,once a sugar estate.

After the tightly wound drama of the city, The Queen’s Park Savannah hits you in the face like a soft, wet towel.  Joggers lope along its circumference, coconut vendors travel miles to park around it, and buyers come from all over, including abroad, to savour the fresh, sweet water and jelly of the expertly cut nut.

The Savannah was once owned by the Peschier family, but was purchased by Governor Ralph Woodford in the early 19th century as part of his plans for the redesign of the city. Beyond its undeniable charms as an enormous park, the Savannah has a social role in Trinidad. Carnival climaxes here each year with the parade of the bands, when thousands of people dance across the stage in colourful costumes. Many hundreds more play cricket, football and rugby on fields scattered across The Savannah.

This huge open space, which occupies valuable development land in the middle of the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, impresses everyone with its absolute correctness. It is a jewel, a lake of natural beauty in the middle of a city of asphalt and concrete. It is the city’s heart and lungs. It is The Savannah, and it waits for you. This photo journey by Marlon Rouse is a well-raised salute.