The use of the pitch between Memorial Park and
the Boulevard at the Queens Park Savannah for Carnival
seems to have worked. It certainly was the only really enjoyable
area during the Panorama semi-finals. If this is correct,
do we really need to spend $460 million to construct a Carnival
Entertainment Centre that will only be used for a few days
of the year? This, as opposed to the other types of construction
proposed such as the Carnival museum and artist studios.
Can we not pare down the expenditure and simply keep the Carnival
on the streets with the resulting savings then used for any
number of pressing social problems?
Making an early decision on this score could assist in assuaging
those who lost out as a result of the confusion as to what
was happening where during this years Carnival.
I refer in particular to Carnival vendors and the viewing
public. It was my impression, for example, that there were
fewer people on Carnival Tuesday, than traditionally, in upper
Port-of-Spain. I did not go downtown and therefore cannot
comment on the situation there. If so, then some vendorsalready
deprived of sales by the all-inclusive mas bandsmay
have suffered losses or barely broken even in their investment.
A radio report on Thursday suggested some possible interest
by the Government in reviewing its design of the Carnival
Centre at the Savannah including a statement from Culture
Minister Yuille Williams that the post-mortem on Carnival
will include stakeholders views on its design.
Hopefully, stakeholder participation will involve not only
a select view but a diverse range of interests including vendors,
mas and steelband players (as well as leaders) together with
the viewing public without whom the streets would be a lonely,
desolate place for the Carnival players.
The post-mortem needs to address the overall winners and losers,
as it were, in terms of this years changes.
Among the losers were all those who did not make it to the
Panorama finals at Skinner Park. A straw poll among my friends
found only one who actually was at the Park. Many from the
East West corridor, particularly Port-of-Spain, who have virtually
never missed a Panorama, did not make it to South.
Of course, many from South who perhaps never made it to town,
were present. The Norths loss was the Souths gain,
I suppose, and maybe the powers that be may decide to keep
Panorama in the Park from now on.
Yet, it is possible to have Panorama on the stretch from Memorial
Park to the Boulevard, if the suggestion were to be accepted
of having an enclosed Carnival City that people pay to enter.
There are two other worrisome trendsnot specific to
this years changeswhich require attention.
First, is the cost of costumes. On average, with costs similar
to the monthly income of many in the society, these bands
really should be dubbed all-exclusives. Another
straw poll picked up a significant number of young womenthe
core of the mas playing communitywho simply refused
to spend so much money this year.
Those earning income in other currenciesnationals and
foreignersmay soon equal if not outnumber nationals
in some of these bands!
How to find a space for less expensive masquerade is a challenge.
I do not have the answer but note it as a problem. Why? The
freedom of the streets of Carnival, in my view, has long been
a concordat between the people who control the streets and
those who do not.
The common ground was that there was a space for all to enjoy
themselves. If we move to a situation where many are excluded
from enjoymentas opposed to working as security, bar
and food help, etcthen something is wrong and needs
to be addressed early; very early.
Second, the steelband is being crowded out on the streets
by the sheer volume of the speaker systems. The music trucks
stop playing when they are virtually next to the steelband
and then resume within a few yards: in both instances deafening
participants from hearing steelband music.
Yet, the product that differentiates our Carnival from others
anywhere else in the worldincluding for tourismis
the steelband. Again, I have no ready answer but think it
is an issue worthy of real attention.