It was not a fete, it was a concert.
So said managers and performers at Sekon Sta’s “Sekon Sunday” concert, held last weekend.
The concert which featured Nesta “Sekon Sta” Boxhill as the headline act became the centre of an investigation into a possible contravention of social distancing rules.
But Boxhill, along with Queen’s Hall manager Garfield George explained, not only was everything in the concert done in accordance with social distancing rules, but the show attempted to provide a blueprint that could be used to produce safe events in the future while still creating a "vibe."
Boxhill said, “We are working on something so that we could exist as artists the same way that groceries and other places are – but it’s a work in progress.
“This was not a party. It was never a party. It was not a public event. It was by invitation only and it is a template that was being set for people. We took it upon ourselves as entertainers to try to do something that would make a sustainable template for performers and afford people some kind of Carnival and performers some kind of employment.”
Safety procedures followed
Boxhill said he, along with other stage performers, would like to share the strategies he used to stage the concert and have government improve on them if possible.
Newsday was told that when patrons arrived at the venue, they were made to stay in their cars and, group by group, they were allowed to enter after taking part in a procedure that included temperature checks, hand sanitisation and sharing contact information for contact tracing.
When they completed the entry process, they were ushered directly to their seats, and were not allowed to move.
After the concert, the patrons were made to stay in their seats until ushers could guide them to their exits and provide them with refreshments and eats as they left.
Boxhill commended the Commissioner of Police and the TTPS on their enforcement of covid19 rules, and encouraged the commissioner to continue to enforce the covid19 laws stringently, but he knocked other people having “parties,” and said their bad behaviour was making things worse for everyone.
“It is Peter pay for Paul and Paul pay for all. It is a situation where, because the public is so sensitive because a lot of events were not following guidelines it is making harder for places like Queen’s Hall, which was very meticulous in its operations.”
In a release sent to the media on Tuesday, CoP Gary Griffith said the Sekon Sunday event had all the features of a Carnival band launching. He said as far as he was concerned, the event was a public party.
He said,“While the event was carried on television and on social media, the video footage was quite clear that it showed numerous patrons inside Queen’s Hall.”
The release said Griffith intends to meet managers of Queen’s Hall as well as of Naparima Bowl, National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) and the Southern Assembly for the Performing Arts (SAPA), as it was noticed that these four venues were open for business.
He once again reminded the public that it was an offence to hold public parties or fetes, under the public health regulations.
A video circulating on social media depicted people at Sekon Sunday dancing in the hall while a performer sang. In the video it seemed as though people were packed closely together, although they all wore masks.
Culture Minister concerned by video
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell, saying his ministry was committed to adhering to public health guidelines and protocols to prevent the spread of covid19, expressed concern over the video.
A release from the ministry said, “(The minister) has requested an immediate meeting with the board and management of all national performance spaces under the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts to urgently revise the operations of these performances.”
He noted that the event was recorded to be broadcast and 200 invitations were issued for the concert. The capacity for Queen’s Hall, Newsday understands, is about 750.
Queen’s Hall manager George said he was not surprised when eyebrows were raised over the concert. He assured that the concert was no different to any event held since they were allowed to re-open in July.
He said, “In December we held a concert for Tuco, Pan Trinbago had their Christmas telethon here, John Thomas had a concert, there was the three days of parang event and so on, all following the same regulations.”
George explained that although covid19 regulations allowed Queen's Hall to utilise half its capacity for events, management only allows the usage of about 30 per cent – between 230 and 260 patrons. Through a seat-mapping process, George said Queen’s Hall has worked out a system so that seats could be grouped together in a maximum of four open seats, followed by a closed seat.
But from the Sekon Sunday event, both George and Boxhill learned that when soca music hits, people have to move.
George said, “Even though we put space between people they may still get up and come to a seat or come up to the front row. From now on, we will make those seats inoperable. We will try to find a classy way instead of putting up caution tape.
“We are not taking the public health rules for granted. We are very serious about it, but we have the ability and the infrastructure, so people could come and relieve stress in a safe way.”