Sponsors are scarce and those who donate money are giving less than they usually would in these difficult economic times. But the shows, or parades in this case, will go on, even if they do so at a loss or at limited capacity.
TT Red Cross Society president Jill Debourg told Sunday Newsday sponsorship is slow but she is not put off by it because the organisation understands TT’s economic situation. In fact, through a combination of goods, services, and cash donations, especially that of National Lotteries Control Board, which exceeded its past contributions, the organisation had reached about 55 per cent of its goal of $755,000 for its Red Cross Kiddies Carnival budget.
Despite financial challenges, the Red Cross intends to expand with a Carnival village which would include games and practical education about elements of Carnival. For example, children would be able to learn the basics and try to walk on moko jumbie stilts.
“The idea behind the Kiddies’ Village is to ensure that we create a true family environment, but also that there is a teaching opportunity at the event...to help create a true understanding of the richness and diversities in our culture.” In addition, proceeds of the event will go towards a peer-to-peer youth programme called Youths As Agents of Behaviour Change. Developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the programme, which encourages youths to be leaders in their environment, will be implemented in rural communities.
Debourg assured that the parade, which will take place at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, on February 23, will have a good turnout of bands. She said in 2018 about 30 bands crossed the stage, and so far this year about 28 have registered. That number does not include individual costumes and she expects a rush this week as leaders complete their designs.
“From the start of our planning process we have engaged the bandleaders to make sure we understand the needs of our stakeholders, to understand gaps that exist to try to bring some solution for the masqueraders. The ultimate beneficiary here is the children... We want to ensure the environment created at the Queen’s Park Savannah is one, not just of colour and vibrancy and a spectacular show of creativity but one where the children, their families, could enjoy the experience.”
She also stressed that, after 63 years, the Red Cross Kiddies Carnival is now critical to TT’s culture and said she wants to take the opportunity, her first year as president, to cement it on the Carnival calender.
Principal of St Anthony’s College, Maurice Inniss, feels much the same as he insists that the 14th annual St Anthony’s Junior Carnival Parade be held even if it is at a loss, because he wants to see it continue to grow. Inniss said this year the school received some financial assistance from Scotiabank but it is not close to covering the approximately $27,000 budget for trophies and prizes. He said registration opened at the beginning of the year but very few bands or individuals had registered for the parade, which will be held on February 17 at St Anthony’s Grounds, Diego Martin. However, he is not concerned as registration usually picks up about a month before Carnival and, he believes despite difficulties with sponsorship, seasoned mas-makers will still participate with their bands.
He added that the parade is also a fundraiser, with profits going towards the upkeep of the school. “What we do is spectators have to pay to come in, to park, and we have a food court which does pretty well... But when we don’t get sponsorship we lose money. Still, this is our 14th year and we don’t want it to die.”
The only other challenge, Inniss said, is getting bands to participate. “We are usually the first junior Carnival parade for the year so some bands use the parade as a trial ground for their individual costumes for Red Cross and Republic Bank. Also, bands are usually not ready by then so we get more individuals participating.”
When asked what changes or adjustments the economic downturn might have on the Republic Bank Junior Parade of the Bands, the parade’s committee chairman Keston Nancoo said, “The economic downturn has influenced some of the decisions that we have had to make. However, alongside our sponsors, we have every confidence in the parade’s success this year as there will be no compromises made with respect to the masqueraders’ and their parents’ safety, security, and enjoyment on the day.”
Nancoo said the committee is not experiencing any challenge that has not been dealt with previously, and that it will continue to work with stakeholders on financial and production issues. “We, like much of the nation, continue to work within the ongoing economic downturn and the subsequent budgetary constraints. However, our mandate to stage an enjoyable and safe parade for all remains steadfast.”