THE QUESTION of the reorganisation of Carnival should be about institutions, implementation and strategic direction and not about mere personality. So while it is laudable that Winston “Gypsy” Peters has given himself to public service once more in the form of his appointment as chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), his return to the administration of our national festival cannot be regarded as the panacea to all the ills with which it is currently plagued. What is more, there are serious questions as to whether Gypsy can inject fresh insight and vision – both of which are badly needed at this stage.
The short tenure of the last chairman, Colin Lucas, should be cause for concern. The reasons for Lucas’ departure have not been publicly aired. However, the dissatisfaction of some with aspects of Carnival 2018 could have placed some pressure on him. Whatever the reasons, the impression of musical chairs at the NCC is not a good one, at a time when stability and continuity are needed. The NCC is crucial not only as a cultural administrator but, as our experience of Carnival this year demonstrated, as a national security stakeholder.
Meanwhile, Gypsy, who takes up his post today, may well have enthusiasm and experience in the cultural domain. But that does not necessarily mean he will have what it takes to succeed where so many others have failed. After all, cultural experience was something the previous chairman, famous for his soca hit Dollar Wine, boasted of as well. But as a former minister of culture who was once responsible for the NCC, Peters is squarely among the ranks of those who have come and gone over the years without making much headway in terms of the trajectory of Carnival. If he could not do it as minister, will he be able to do it as NCC chairman?
The whole organisation of Carnival needs a thorough examination. What is required now is something more far-reaching than the shallow annual “post-mortems” that are conducted. New life must be breathed into the festival. We cannot simply turn to well-known figures like Gypsy and Lucas and expect solutions to automatically come. Every year we see the same old, same old.
There are complaints about lack of funds, disagreements over parade routes, competition formats and results, and problems with venues and infrastructure. Dwindling crowds have been the only constant throughout the years, as has been the complete breakdown in artistic expression and in procurement practices. A long-term plan needs to be rolled out. Carnival is not an extempo.
One clear advantage Peters does have, however, is how he has straddled political divides. This could be something he might be able to leverage in his new role to the benefit of the organisation. Whether he can effectively use this as a trump card remains to be seen.