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Saturday 21 September 2019
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Tobago must stage own Carnival

NGO wants separate festival

Masqueraders from the Tobago Guild's presentation, Oro: The Story of Gold, cross the stage in Scarborough on Carnival Monday. FILE PHOTO
Masqueraders from the Tobago Guild's presentation, Oro: The Story of Gold, cross the stage in Scarborough on Carnival Monday. FILE PHOTO

KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY

For many, the dust has settled on Carnival 2019.

But, for at least one advocacy group in Tobago, strong consideration must be given to having the island host a separate Carnival from Trinidad.

The suggestion comes from Kelvon Morris, spokesman for Citizens In Support of Tobago Development, which is planning to host what he called a stakeholders' conversation this week to thrash out the issue.

It is not the first time the issue of Tobago having its own Carnival has come up for debate.

During his tenure as minister of the arts and multiculturalism in the former People's Partnership administration, Winston "Gypsy" Peters had raised the issue and in fact, staged a Tobago Carnival once in November, which was unsuccessful.

Peters, now wearing the hat of chairman of the National Carnival Commission, again brought the topic to the fore during a recent clash between his tent, Back to Basics and Kaiso House.

Morris, referring to the poor turnout of supporters in Tobago on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, feels the issue of the island''s Carnival celebration must be addressed if it is to achieved its fullest potential.

He said the festival must be used to boost tourism in Tobago.

“Every year, it pains me to see millions wasted without any real returns, yet we fuss about the jazz festival which has a track record of actually bringing both international and domestic tourists to the island with a proven spend by the visitors that outweighs the investment of the THA,” a vocal Morris told Newsday Tobago.

“This (Carnival) weekend, while I was in Trinidad, I observed Barbados was there promoting crop over, Grenada promoting Spice mas among all the other islands. Yet, little Tobago was busy spending $7 million for locals to enjoy a 'blocko.'”

He continued: "I will never understand nor subscribe to this thinking and it pains me that no one has not yet found the testicular fortitude to say enough is enough and make a serious intervention to make our Carnival competitive and a serious tourist attraction we can leverage to both Trinidad and the rest of the world at an alternative date and time.”

While he believes Tobago is "wasting time and money" competing with Trinidad Carnival, Morris said he would not stop the event on the island.

“Perhaps we can allow this Carnival – the national festival to be managed by the National (Carnival) Commission and we put on a second Carnival at a different date, whether it be an extension of this one, or so, run by the Tobago Festivals Commission.

"I do not have all the answers, nor do I profess that I do, hence why I am calling for a stakeholders conversation, where an intervention can be had on behalf of creating a more successful product that is viable and beneficial to the people of Tobago both from a socio-economic and cultural point of view.” Saying the aim of the conversation would be to get consensus on the way forward, Morris said:

“I just wanted to be the vehicle to bring people together and let us hear from those who really love the artform, know about the artform and want to see a real change. I do not profess to be an expert in what Carnival is or what Carnival should be but I am a Tobagonian that knows that things need to be done differently."

Morris said over the years, he has witnessed a continuous decline in participation in Tobago Carnival "and for me as a Tobagonian, watching this, it pains me to the core.

“I honestly and passionately believe there needs to be some kind of intervention. I have spoken to persons at the level of the assembly and the festivals commission and to me, there is no kind of inclination to make any real change to what is happening at this time."

Disappointed with the participation on the streets on Carnival Tuesday, Morris took to Facebook to vent his concerns – an observation, he claimed, has received an outpouring of support.

“People just waiting to hear when we would have these conversations, and there are so many people that want to be apart, so many people want to be onboard and, so many people want to see this happen. I am really enthused and excited at the responses thus far,” he said.

However, he said some Tobagonians still choose to remain either anonymous or silent.

“I think as usual, Tobagonians just simply feel that if they speak out against status quo, they would be victimised. So, people stay in their own space and they have their own opinions that might be different from what the status quo is, but continue to allow things to happen,” he said.

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