When the preliminaries of the King and Queen of Carnival competition takes centre stage on Tuesday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, patrons may be disappointed with the calibre of some of the costumes.
And, it has nothing to do with a lack of creativity. Masmen say while the economic downturn has forced them to cut back on the money they would usually pump into creating an elaborate costume, the show will go on. Veteran masman Ted Eustace, seeking a hattrick as King of Carnival, said the band, Paparazzi, had to trim its budget for major costumes.
“We cannot come up with anything too elaborate to spend a lot of money,” he told Sunday Newsday. Eustace said most of the materials for his portrayal, from the band’s Nomadik Nation, will continue to be sourced abroad “because it is a lot cheaper.”
He said the problem of funding was compounded by the significant drop in prize money over the years. Last year, the King and Queen of Carnival winners each received $180,000 while the second and third place participants got $120,00 and $80,000.
Eustace could not say if the prize money for winners would remain this Carnival or decrease because of the recession. He said it appeared as though people do not have as much money “to spend and splurge.
“So, we definitely have to watch what we do.” Asked if this was the general feeling among bandleaders, Eustace would only say he has seen over the years a recycling of old presentations. “I can tell you I have seen people bring back the same costumes in different colours. So, it is just like they are recycling the mas.
“No fault of their own because it is a lot of money to put out for really nothing.”
Eustace said his costume has already been completed “with just a few things to fine tune.”
He said the recession will not prevent the band from enjoying Carnival. “My family has been in the business for more than 50 years and we are just trying to keep the culture alive.”
Trini Revellers leader David Cameron said the band has redoubled its efforts to produce top quality costumes, in spite of the recession.
“We are having two kings and two queens, all of whom are in the competition. And we are going to try our best to come out with a better quality costume,” he said.
“Like everything else, finance is always a restriction. But they are trying to come good.”
Cameron said the band, which celebrates its 20th anniversary next year, will portray Tribute To Harold Saldenah: The Legend. “We are trying to accommodate the mas because it is our main festival and we are trying to be supportive of it.”
However, he said there was urgent need to market Carnival, moreso during prolonged periods of recession.
“We have a lot of discussions to hold with key Carnival stakeholders after because it cannot go on like this.
“We do not promote. We do not market. We don’t do any incentives to encourage people to come here for Carnival.
“And there is a lot of competition now. People could go Brazil and any other place but you have to encourage visitors to come here. So there is a serious lack of marketing.” The recession also has hit Ivan Kalicharan’s presentation, The Elixir of Life.
Marlon Rampersad, who has produced King and Queen costumes for the San Fernando-based bandleader for more than a decade, said the recession has forced him to re-strategise. “We have to be more creative, to do some of the things with what you have available,” said Rampersad, whose mother, Gloria Dalsingh, won the Queen of Carnival title in 2016 with her portrayal, Artemisia: the Warrior Queen.
“I have to go through materials to see what could be used because we have to be mindful of what we buy.”
Rampersad said some costume designers have concluded that participating in this year’s competition may not be worth their while in terms of time, effort and money. He said of the 44 kings and 39 queens who are expected to participate in Tuesday’s competition, only 20 will be selected for the finals at the Dimanche Gras show on Sunday. “With all the money a band might put out for their costumes, there is not even a semifinal round this year, where even if you don’t make it to the finals, you could still get some small prize or compensation.
“If you don’t make it to the finals, that is it.”