Trinidad and Tobago promoters slam Government’s announcement – Tasteless Carnival

Soca star Nadia Batson performs at a fete during the 2019 Carnival season. -
Soca star Nadia Batson performs at a fete during the 2019 Carnival season. -

The TT Promoters Association is dismissing the announcement by the government of a safe-zone Carnival which specifically excludes parties, fetes and other similar gatherings.

In a statement on Thursday in response to the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture’s statement on Wednesday, the association said the so-called Taste of Carnival has absolutely no effect on its industry, but is an “important intervention for the state public relations machine.”

“The (newspaper) headline reading ‘Carnival is On’ is misleading and it has caused tremendous confusion for stakeholders. As a nation we have missed the opportunity to activate ‘Carnival’ for 2022.”

The association said as far as it is concerned, the events sector is still closed as it has been for two years.

“Events happen year-round, employment is generated by event producers year-round. Events are not just fetes, they are also sporting events, corporate events, ceremonial events, conferences, political events, meetings and so on.

“The event sector stimulates the economy. Revenue streams reach stakeholders year-round, event production is a vital part of the economy.”

The association said its members use personal funds to generate employment and do business.

“We do not receive any state funding whatsoever (and) do not have the luxury of taxpayer funds to prop us up. We have to be profitable to survive.”

The ministry said on Wednesday only concert-type events with masked, vaccinated participants, at 50 per cent capacity, would be allowed. These include soca and calypso concerts; calypso tents; soca, calypso, extempo and chutney competitions; steelband concerts; Carnival King and Queen shows; and Carnival theatre.

Fetes or parties are prohibited because of the risk of increased spread of the covid19 virus.

The ministry said, “While PCR testing of patrons was considered as a form of risk mitigation, it was not deemed realistic as the cost per test per patron would be uneconomical.”

On Thursday, Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell admitted, in a CCN TV6 interview, that the delay in giving the green light for events happened because the ministry was awaiting advice from the Ministry of Health

However, he said there is still enough time to organise and host approved Carnival events which must follow strict public health protocols.

He said approved spaces include those licensed under the Theatres and Dancehall Licence Act.

“The NCC (National Carnival Commission) is looking at the Grand Stand (Queen’s Park Savannah). It is spacious, persons will be safely seated.”

The association acknowledged the state has a key role in supporting traditional arts and ensuring the preservation of TT’s heritage, but the current model for state intervention still needs to change.

“It is simply not working for the whole product. We reiterate our call for new systems and bodies that are fit for purpose and can assimilate the needs of the sector in 2022 and beyond.”

It said promoters cannot continue to live in the current state and are seeking clear answers from the government on whether Carnival 2023 will be on.

“We need to start planning now for a successful festival season next year and beyond.”

Group CEO of Tribe Carnival Dean Ackin, in a WhatsApp message to Newsday, said the ship has long sailed for Carnival 2022, as preparations for these events take several months.

“We have been preparing for Carnival 2023 since last year and we are hoping that the powers that be take a different approach, moving forward, instead of having us on red light waiting to give us the green light.

“We are asking them to give us the green light for Carnival 2023 from now and then change to red if, and only if, the covid situation becomes unmanageable.”

He said the world is learning to live with the virus and economies are fully opening.

“Trinidad is about 50 per cent vaccinated and it is time to reopen the event and entertainment industry with all covid safety protocols in place. The industry has a large ecosystem, and many people rely on their jobs in this sector to survive.

“Two years with no income has been hard for many persons – from security personnel to bartenders, caterers and the list goes on.”

He said a properly-managed safe zone can work well with all protocols in place.

Manager of the Republic Bank Exodus steelband Ainsworth Mohammed also agreed that the timeframe was tight, but doable.

In a brief phone interview with Newsday on Thursday, he said, “We in the Carnival arts have a way of getting a lot of stuff done on time for Carnival events.”

Mohammed also said he believed, regardless of the limitations, the events would be successful, but found it strange that the government decided on access to venues for the vaccinated only.

I got the impression that they were wiling to mix (vaccinated and unvaccinated), provided protocols were followed.”

He said with strict adherence to protocols everyone could take part in the events.

“We all go out in public to the supermarket, public transport. We don’t know who is vaxxed and who is not. We’re in the public all the time. The more important thing is to adhere to protocols.

“The government is saying we have to live with the virus, but I understand its view that lives and livelihoods are priority.”

Calypsonian and calypso tent manager Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osouna also told Newsday he was concerned about limited safe zones.

“There are no safe zones specified for (calypsonians) because ours is just an open tent. I am seeing maybe there will be one or two shows in February and (shows) may roll over into March.”

Randy Glasgow, CEO of Randy Glasgow Productions, said the likelihood of a profitable season is low, but organisers are not necessarily motivated this year by money.

“We need to look out for our artistes. I wish other promoters would think the same way.

“They haven’t earned in two years and counting. We have to reach out to them. You can’t tell an artiste who has been singing all these years to go drive taxi or be a welder. We feel we have to step up to the plate.”

Glasgow is calling on sponsors to help raise $300-$400,000 to organise events that can at least pay artistes for their work.

“I think they are obligated to come forward and help. Artistes are loyal people. They will remember this. We are dependent on them to help the artistes. We’re not depending on paying patrons. It will be hard for them to pay. We are more depending on (corporate support). They have benefited from Carnival for years.”

He said people in the industry will stay away if they don’t get the support of sponsors, as the costs of paying for venues, artistes and marketing will be steep.

He said his production company will try to do special editions of events such as Chutney Land and alternative comedy festivals. “Something spectacular for the eyes,” he said.

“We may do something where calypso is concerned (and) bring two major calypso tents, super clash, all in safe-zone venues.”


"Trinidad and Tobago promoters slam Government’s announcement – Tasteless Carnival"

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