THE PRIME Minister’s badly timed mention of Carnival in his address to the nation last week, coupled with the reinstatement of the board of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), has returned to the fore discussions about the prospects of Carnival 2022.
It is clear Carnival – as it is traditionally understood – will not take place in the current circumstances, a fact alluded to by Dr Rowley.
“We have received good advice, after extensive consultation, about Carnival,” the Prime Minister said. “Carnival 2022 will not see street parades, unvaccinated gatherings and wild public partying but there is room for ‘safe-zone’ venue-specific events where some elements of the festival can be sampled as a Carnival microcosmic mosaic with a difference.”
Dr Rowley, who has been criticised in several quarters for not sending a strong enough signal in his address last week, might have been trying to give the population a modicum of good news amid all the terrible covid19 developments.
There was a moment, too, when dangling the prospect of Carnival before the population was also potentially an effective tool: a carrot to encourage the country to get vaccinated. Telling people Carnival will only involve safe zones might have, at one stage, helped vaccine uptake.
However, it is worth questioning, as UNC officials have this week, where Dr Rowley got his advice from and whether that advice still holds in present circumstances.
The covid19-record-breaking month of November came notwithstanding safe-zone measures being in force. If Dr Rowley was not mindful of this last week, he has no choice but to be mindful of it now that the omicron variant has emerged, bringing with it fears about further mutations that might be even more virulent and even possibly vaccine-resistant. (The PM did briefly cite early reports of a new variant emerging.)
The terrible upsurge in deaths also means talk about Carnival right now feels tone-deaf. In fact, mention of Carnival in the Prime Minister’s address last week seemed to run counter to his own attempts on the same occasion to strongly warn the population.
At this late stage, there is only so much which can be planned ahead of February 28 and March 1, 2022. If the intention is to signal the importance of culture and to support the arts, what the Government and stakeholders should be focusing on is reviewing and refining what occurred this year to deepen the virtual Carnival experience.
It should also give updates on its plans to provide support to the creative sector, such as grants. It is worth examining how virtual plans can be pivoted so as to support as wide as possible an array of Carnival artists, while also generating productions that can be used effectively to bolster this country’s tourism brand internationally.