Couva is gearing up for a dramatically diminished Carnival this year.
Chairman of the Couva Regional Carnival Committee, Ramchand Rajbal, said that the funding for Carnival in Couva has been cut in half and that regional Carnival will be taking a hit.
For the first time in thirty years, the committee will drop its Carnival Queen show. The first-place cash prize for the Band of the Year competition has been cut in half to $8,000. Four of the 12 bands expected to parade have already pulled out of this year's competition. Couva hosts seven days of events and competitions leading into and including Carnival Monday and Tuesday.
In east Trinidad, the Biche Carnival Development Committee has been hosting four events for Carnival with a budget of $35,000, half its previous allocation of $75,000. Add to that mix the delayed release of funding and an unwelcome degree of uncertainty begins to kill enthusiasm for competing.
In the face of late funding from the Government, the Princes Town Carnival Committee launched their Carnival on Friday, the same day that the town was established 139 years ago. The committee's treasurer, Romel Salamat, was hopeful that the NCC would meet their funding target of $100,000, though they only got $75,000 in 2019.
None of these regional committees can be particularly happy about the tardy release of funding for events that are being hosted on shoestring budgets. Adding salt to their wait for funding was the chaos that arose during the week when the St James Carnival Committee announced the cancellation of the annual competition for children's bands. The NCC immediately stepped in. A committee was quickly formed to liaise with the St James committee, which has run the event privately for many years and a plan is expected to be announced next week.
The NCC is clearly aware that small Carnival events are important to their communities and is willing to act to save them – if they are in Port of Spain. Carnival in regional districts is both very young and very old. There are veteran practitioners who have produced costumes for decades and new players trying their hand at mas for the first time.
Regional mas remains a crucible of experimentation as well as a space for the preservation of traditions, where innovation is still driven by limited funds and inventiveness is rewarded by communities who are as appreciative of effort as they are of spectacle.
The NCC and the stakeholder bodies responsible for individual aspects of the celebration must not allow the birthplaces of much that is endearing, odd and downright weird in the festival, the nation's countryside, to fall further out of the mainstream view.