THE OFFICIAL launch of Carnival 2023 was pushed back on Wednesday from this Saturday to November, but anticipation of the festival, and the need for answers about how it will unfold, remain pitched at the same level.
Carnival might not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind right now, given all that is unfolding around us (the new launch date of November 5 avoids some of the bad weather forecast for this week). But the time now is right – if not already overdue – for clarity on the nature of the 2023 season, which will be the first to unfold fully in years.
Private organisations have already “launched” the Carnival season, and the disconnect between their efforts and that of the State speaks volumes about missed opportunities for collaboration and co-ordination.
At the height of the covid19 pandemic, many officials noted the “new normal” would dictate major changes in how we do things, including our annual festival. At one point, after the arrival of life-saving vaccines, one government minister declared the next Carnival would be “the mother of all Carnivals.”
We have seen little sign of either a new approach or one befitting a celebration marked out as different from previous editions. In fact, so far Carnival 2023 looks to be more of the same. And not in a good way.
Bandleader groups were engaged last month in legal squabbling at precisely the moment when they should be coming together to produce something extraordinary.
Meanwhile, there has been little indication of what rules and procedures will be put in place for bands to manage health requirements. Nobody has mentioned the possibility of any such regulations for fetes and similar gatherings.
There is little sign of a contingency plan if the covid19 situation deteriorates. Indeed, the possibility of the emergence of yet another coronavirus variant or a new pandemic is not even an afterthought.
The authority of the National Carnival Commission, meanwhile, has been challenged by the Tobago House of Assembly (THA)’s staging of its own carnival, due next month.
The more carnival events the better, and it is good Tobago is doing its own thing, as this potentially meshes well with its tourism industry and provides those looking for a release with a welcome outlet before 2023.
But the dearth of detail in relation to Tobago’s plans at this late stage – we have only been given a list of events – suggests both islands may well share the same approach: do things at the last minute. (The current THA ole mas might also explain Tobago’s apparent lack of focus.)
It is in the country’s interest for Tobago’s carnival to succeed, and for this reason alone, the NCC – whose offer of assistance the THA reportedly did not accept – should have been involved.
Then again, Tobago may be well aware of the history of Trinidad’s Carnival bacchanal.
November’s launch will be a good opportunity to set a different tone, even at the eleventh hour.