Faced with significant cutbacks in State support, a lack of sponsorship and fears that calypso may be dying, tent managers are still hoping the economic recession will not result in poor patronage over the Carnival.
And, with the season already in full swing, Sunday Newsday learnt that several of the government-assisted tents still have not received funding to help manage their affairs.
This, after Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced on Thursday there will be a one-third cut in financial donations for all events which receive sponsorship from the ministry and its agencies. And last Friday, National Carnival Commission chairman Colin Lucas disclosed $6.8 million was allocated for calypso. The subvention usually goes to the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation.
Despite the announcement of proposed cutbacks, Revue manager Michael Osuna, known to the calypso world as Sugar Aloes, is still optimistic a subvention would be forthcoming.
“We are anticipating we will get it. We supposed to,” he said.
Last year, Osuna said the Revue received a subvention of $150,000, which, though substantial, is hardly enough to fulfill all of the tent’s obligations.
Other government-assisted tents receive a similar amount to help carry out their activities, Sunday Newsday learnt.
Osuna feared the recession could negatively impact tents, which have felt the pinch of reduced patronage over the years.
“It was already in the vein of what one considers scantiness,” Osuna said of the turnout at Revue within recent times.
He said the jury was still out on whether the Revue, which includes reigning calypso monarch Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool and other heavyweights, could run for the duration of Carnival.
Nevertheless, Osuna remained hopeful, saying the tent’s success will depend largely on the support of patrons.
The Revue launches on Saturday at its traditional stomping ground, Arima Velodrome.
Like Osuna, Divas manager Dr Rudolph Ottley is also optimistic the Woodbrook-based tent will receive financial assistance from Government. “I always like to be positive,” he told Sunday Newsday.
Ottley said while corporate assistance has supplemented the Government’s subventions, that, too, has decreased over the years.
“Some corporate people have been helpful but sometimes I have had to take my personal funds to ensure there is no embarrassment. Sometimes, it is more of a sacrifice than a business.”
Ottley noticed the tent’s patrons have dwindled over the years–a situation, he feels, is likely to persist during the recession.
“There has been a definite decline in patronage and this is because the public, who supported tents, have either died or become old.”
Ottley said the dilemma was not unique to Divas.
“We have not been able to nurture a younger public, who are more focused on the soca monarch.”
Ottley observed that at the time tents were popular, parents did not take their children to the shows.
“And by the time those children became adults, they either did not like the tents or were not interested. So, there was always a generational gap and that has been the historical factor.”
Ottley said, though, the calypso tent must remain in Carnival.
“It is the longest indigenous institution in Trinidad and Tobago and something we have to hold on to dearly in spite of the challenges.”
Sherma Orr, a member of the executive team at Kaiso Karavan, said the tent has had a noticeable reduction in corporate sponsorship, primarily due to the recession.
“Normally, we would have about five or six sponsors but this year we have nothing.
“Everybody crying, saying they have not even done calendars, diaries and desk planners.”
She said the tent, based at La Joya, St Joseph, would usually host events to assist with its expenses for the season “but this year we did nothing because of the sponsorship situation.”
She said they were waiting for government funding.
Known as the community tent, Orr said the Kaiso Karavan, which opens on January 18, also has buckled under the weight of poor patronage.
“For the past three years now, I realised that it is declining bad and we don’t know what will happen this year.”
Managing the tent, she said, was a difficult process.
“Because many of the times, you not making back the money. You have to pay police and get a bar licence.”
Orr said if the economic slump persists, the Karavan may soon have to go the way of Antigua.
“Tents in Antigua run for just two weeks and by the time the judges pass, they close down.”
Although they have not yet received their government subvention, Klassic Russo headliner Mark John said preparations were proceeding “full steam ahead.”
“We are ready go in spite of the economic situation,” said John, otherwise known as Contender.
“Calypsonians are doing their CDs and songs are on the airwaves. We are booking shows and making various types of arrangements.”
In fact, John said Klassic Russo, based at City Hall, Port-of-Spain, will be one of the more dynamic tents this Carnival.
“I feel because of the product we have at Klassic Russo that patronage will increase. Patrons can expect a bumper season.”
Klassic Russo, known for its traditional calypsoes, boasts the likes of veteran All Rounder (Anthony Hendrickson), daughters Diane and Shirlaine, Edwin Ayoung (Crazy), Brian London, Doran Hector (Versatile) and Carlton Collins (Manchild).