FORMER Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Minority Leader, Ashworth Jack is urging those in authority to be brave and grasp the opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago to have separate Carnivals on each island.
Speaking with Newsday Tobago on Tuesday, Jack said he welcomed the idea after touting it for the past 17 years.
“Tobago needs to separate its Carnival from Trinidad, Tobago cannot compete with Trinidad," he said, "There are a number of reasons for that…Because of the very nature of Carnival where people like big crowds, Tobago can’t do that and it’s the same thing as in South Carnival. South Carnival suffers because most of the people gravitate to the more urban areas.”
Jack believes economically, shifting the date would derive “humongous” benefits.
He said, “There are countries all over the world using the Trinbago-styled carnival as major tourism events; Tobago, which is part of the twin island Republic, is been denied the right to benefit exclusively from such an event.
“I could tell you of a large number of Tobagonians who want to do Carnival and play mas because of the attractions…There are people who come home from all parts of the United States to play mas in Trinidad. If Tobago don’t have Carnival at the same time, a lot of these people would come to Tobago…The local Tobago Tourism industry could benefit like that – and this is once we have the inter island transport situation worked out.”
He added “On the other hand, there is approximately 50,000 to 100,000 – a very large number of people – who don’t take part in Carnival at all. They revert to a number of Caribbean islands and United States over the Carnival weekend.
“Now if Tobago don’t have Carnival at the same time, a number of these people would come to Tobago – that too depends on the ease of travelling. The local tourism could benefit from that. This can go vice versa as well, while we are having Carnival here, persons may opt to go to Trinidad.”
Jack said he understands the fear that Trinidad bands would come to Tobago and possibly dominate the mas, but he does not see that as a bad thing.
“Trinidad mas makers are seeking the rest of the world to play mas anyway; we in Tobago could benefit from that,” he said.
In October 2018, National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) Tobago Region president Terrance Sandiford tried a second Carnival by reinventing the disbanded Tobago Fest, hosting a Tobago Fest Rebirth.
While Sandiford hail the event as a “tremendous success,” to many it lacked support, as the participation was few and came mainly from Trinidad with a J’Ouvert at Canoe Bay and ending with a cool down event at Swallows, Crown Point.
Tobago Fest began in 1998 and continued up until 2006. When Sandiford took up the mantle of NCBA Tobago Region boss in 2011, he vowed to return the festival to Tobago. It took him 12 years to make his dream come true.
But Jack said while the calls are for a Tobago Carnival, Tobago Fest is not a Carnival.
“There is a difference with Tobago Fest and Carnival. It doesn’t have the same kind of funding, there isn’t the same kind of exposure, nothing of the sort – we need a Tobago Carnival. What we want is two separate Carnivals… when Trinidad is having their Carnival, Tobago has none and vice versa,” he said.