Think 'innovation' for Carnival 2021

Kim Johnson, director of the Carnival Institute. PHOTO BY JANELLE DE SOUZA
Kim Johnson, director of the Carnival Institute. PHOTO BY JANELLE DE SOUZA

BANDLEADERS, steelbands, designers, musicians and even partygoers must rely on innovation in a covid19 era for Carnival 2021.

This was the prevailing sentiment at a post-covid19 webinar discussion on TT’s Carnival policy, hosted by the University of TT on Friday morning.

Panellists included Dr Suzanne Burke and Dr Keron Niles, both lecturers at UWI, St Augustine, Dr Kim Johnson, director of the Carnival Institute and Dr Rudolph Ottley, an assistant professor at UTT. During her presentation, Burke encouraged stakeholders to be innovative and not to wait on the government’s assistance.

This includes designing costumes and fete outfits that go in line with covid19 protective wear. Promoters should also be considering using larger venues to facilitate physical distancing in soca events. Burke said establishing a post-covid19 Carnival policy will bring structure to Carnival but the policy should be structured around the changes caused by the virus in the future.

“We probably need to design clothes that could be disposable and recyclable with masks. I think the entrepreneurs and the people will show up through innovation what they should do. The policy will then follow what is happening.” She pointed out the need for the festival to remain relevant and sustainable while adapting to the “new norms.”

One suggestion to keep Carnival alive was to collaborate with overseas Carnival promoters to help with rebranding the local festival. This, she said, will consist of the efforts of the government and other cultural stakeholders.

“Now it’s time for us to rethink and restart the festival not as a particular organisation but as a country as a whole on ‘How do we create a Carnival policy that facilitates the various ways in which Carnival is celebrated in TT and its diaspora?”

Niles said the government needs to embrace innovation and assist with developing plans to revolutionise the way events are done. “Innovation is happening. The State can choose to reject it or embrace it but when the State chose to embrace it they need to help people develop those ideas so that they could become global and become revenue streams.”

Johnson said one way forward post-covid19 is to sell TT’s culture through education. For this to be done he said there must be a clear understanding what the importance and uniqueness of Carnival and the events surrounding the festivals mean to TT.

“A huge problem with culture in TT is that we do it without understanding. What are we writing the policy about? And in the case of Carnival – mas, pan and calypso – there is a rum shop definition and ideas. If people are setting up Carnival all over the world, we should be the consultants,” Johnson said.

Ottley spoke of the current state of the festival and why reform was needed. He said Carnival was watered down after it was placed under the charge of interest groups.

“It appears the Carnival is now just to fete and to have a good time. There is no sustained organised programme to show where Carnival is a beneficial aspect or there is a need to educate the society on its values.”

He said there are too many “channels” unable to manage and maintain the quality of the festival. Until “Carnival is under an umbrella whereby one body is responsible for Carnival,” the discussion of innovation and policy will go in circles.


"Think ‘innovation’ for Carnival 2021"

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