WINSTON “GYPSY” Peters has made part of his career out of singing extempo, but his approach to Carnival 2021 is not music to our ears.
“We are not planning any virtual events the way the private promoters or whoever are planning,” Mr Peters, now chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), said this week. “What we are going to be doing is compiling a lot of what we have. We are working on it right now. So we will have a kind of antecedental look at what Carnival in TT is all about, historical as it is.”
The world is fast moving forward, but the NCC is content to dust off folders from the archives and take us down memory lane.
It’s out of tune, out of tempo and out of touch.
Mr Peters would say that’s because his organisation is out of money. According to him, the NCC got no government allocation except for recurrent expenditure, to the tune of about $32 million.
One budget document, the Draft Estimates of Recurrent Expenditure, puts the figure a little higher – $36 million.
In any case, it’s nowhere near the $153 million allocated in 2020. The NCC chairman has a right to be disappointed. The word “Carnival” appeared nowhere in the 40-page budget speech.
While the Prime Minister said Carnival 2021 is not happening, the absence of any discussion since then as to how Carnival and Carnival bodies might be refashioned in a way to accommodate the new normal is a letdown.
It is not just a matter of responsibility for the festival being shifted to the Tourism Ministry. Carnival is our marquee cultural event and a virtual festival would be highly symbolic, given the Government’s push for digitalisation. And it would help us market ourselves and keep Carnival alive in the mind of the world until the real thing can resume.
Despite tough times, surely some allocation could have been worked out in consultation with stakeholders, above and beyond the bare minimum, to finance the tools or infrastructure needed to take our mas, pan, and culture to an international audience.
At the same time, it seems the NCC is merely doing its own (vague, last-minute) thing: what are its plans to support the Carnival special interest groups and their efforts? It is true stakeholders should be encouraged to be self-sufficient. But they have limitations too (some got no subvention at all). And what is the NCC if not a co-ordinating body?
Mr Peters, who is a ten-time extempo monarch, should be focusing on improvising, not keeping things offline out of pique (for surely it’s not out of ignorance of what is possible online).
Even the Notting Hill and Brooklyn carnivals –which owe much to ours – held virtual events. Why can’t the NCC?