Taking the handing over of sponsorship of the Junior Parade of the Bands as his opportunity to signal change, NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters suggested that the name of the event could be changed to Children's Saturday. After most of decade under the sponsorship of Republic Bank, the event will now be supported by First Citizens.
The parade has been a part of Carnival since 1974 and over the last 46 years has earned its place as the centrepiece event for children playing mas before adults take over the streets of the city. By comparison, the Red Cross Kiddies' Carnival is now in its 64th year, and an event that has been run that long and with such an obvious impact on the development of Carnival made a profit of less than $4,000 last year.
Undaunted by the fact that the event is clearly not the fundraiser it was created to be, the Red Cross Carnival team has created a Trailblazer initiative for secondary schools that it hopes it will be able to fund by cutting its budget in half to $350,000. Trailblazer seeks to develop new life skills for children targeting the development of resilience skills, stimulating behaviour change, developing emergency response skills and assessing vulnerability capacity.
But there is also no doubt that evolution and adaptation has stalled in the junior parade over the years, distilling the event into a version of the adult parade of the bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and that's sometimes proven a challenge for young children in extreme weather. There has also been a steady drift from school band participation to competition among private bands.
The children's parade was once mostly made up of school Carnival bands. Now as many as 80 percent of participants are private bands, a surprising change, particularly in the face of efforts by the Ministry of Culture to employ mas practitioners to teach their craft in schools. The Peters name change stirs the possibility for new ways of thinking about the event, if it also rethinks Carnival's many dimensions to create a project that engages children in creation as well as portrayal and a becomes shaping crucible for their future participation and innovations in the festival.
Any rethinking of the Junior Parade of the Bands should begin with clear thinking about the way this country must instutionalise its cultural traditions through its schools, and that must begin with education, training and practice in the creative aspects of the festival for its next generation. The children's parade of the bands is an opportunity to re-establish a culture of creation in a festival that’s become overwhelmed by consumerism.