THE EDITOR: On June 2, the Newsday ran a story in its Spotlight section with the headline Panorama “Deadin.” The story detailed remarks that I made as a guest speaker of the Tobago House of Assembly’s consultation for the Tobago Heritage Festival, which was held at Mt Irvine Hotel on May 27.
Unfortunately, the headline suggested that in my remarks I either articulated or implied that the National Panorama was a dying event. This is simply not the case.
My presentation, which was entitled “Enabling a Value Creating Ecology for the Tobago Heritage Festival,” focused on a framework that is used to evaluate and sustain festivals and events that is known in the literature as the event or festival life cycle.
This framework suggests that similar to commercial products, events have life cycles that consist of five discrete stages including introduction, growth, maturation, stagnation, rejuvenation or decline. In order to grow events, organisers have to identify what stage of the life cycle their event/festival is in.
I went on to elaborate that the identification of the stages is a complex exercise since the progression from one phase to the next is not always linear nor time bound. I also emphasised that festival organisers should deploy four key strategies to determine their festival’s placement in the cycle. These included research, marketing, governance and leadership.
While elaborating on the research strategy, I drew the example of audience impact assessments that were conducted on National Panorama semi-finals for three years, in 2014, 2015 and 2018. Here I identified the consistent findings of the reports which revealed that four distinct age groups attended the Panorama.
The majority of the patrons in the Grand Stand and the Drag were 55 and over, the majority in the North Stand were between 35-46 years of age, and the majority in the Greens were between 15-35 years of age. The key point here was that the core audiences were aging and that the organisers needed to do something to bring younger audiences into the stands to hear the pan.
In other words, the organisers needed to develop strategies to convert the “convenient” consumers of the pan such as those audiences who occupied the Greens into hardcore pan “enthusiasts” as part of a medium to long-term strategy. Therefore, the assertion that Panorama “deadin” was never made or implied.
The key take-away from this aspect of my presentation was that for events to remain competitive they must have a handle on the changing dynamics of their audiences. I wish to underscore that I did not classify which stage in the event life cycle the Panorama occupied. As an expert in this area, I know that much more research would have been required to make a prognosis.
In closing I wish to say that we in TT have been somewhat lucky because new events are consistently being introduced into the Carnival arena. This feature, either by default or design, has helped to sustain audience interest. However, if we are really serious about using the festival sector as a vehicle for socio-economic transformation, then it is critical that we remain relevant in the global festival marketplace.
One of the key ways to achieve this goal is by keeping our fingers on the pulse of the changing attitudes, interests and opinions of the emerging audiences who consume and co-create cultural products and experiences.
I submit now, as I did at the consultation, that one of the best ways to do this is by developing a culture of research to inform our decision-making.
SUZANNE BURKE PhD via e-mail