Tobago Festivals CEO downplays threat of mas boycott

Tobago Festivals CEO John Arnold at the launch of Tobago Carnival on Tuesday in Scarborough.  Photo by David Reid
Tobago Festivals CEO John Arnold at the launch of Tobago Carnival on Tuesday in Scarborough. Photo by David Reid

THERE is no immediate plan to review the disbursement of the $9 million that was allocated to Tobago to prepare for next month’s Carnival.

Last week Tuesday, interim chair of the Tobago Carnival bandleaders Association Jemma Bedlow threatened to protest if the $1.3 million that was allocated for the mas fraternity was not increased.

In a video posted on social media, Bedlow regarded the allocation as disrespectful to her members. She said the association had submitted a budget of $3.5 million for the festival.

Bedlow also complained about the increasing cost of producing mas.

Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd CEO John Arnold had met with bandleaders and other stakeholders to discuss the upcoming festival.

He said the mas fraternity had not expressed any dissatisfaction with their 1.3 million allocation at that time but said they were preparing feverishly for the festival.

At the launch of Carnival on Tuesday on the Scarborough Esplanade, Arnold reiterated the commission’s position on disbursements for stakeholders.

“From where I sit, we have been working with the stakeholders – I’ve said this ad nauseam – and we have not had an issue,’ he told reporters.

“We saw the issues unfold. But beyond that, all the secretaries and myself, the chairman, we have addressed all of the issues of the $9 million and how it is to be disbursed and disaggregated for everybody.”

Arnold claimed he talks to Bedlow every day.

“I speak with Ms Bedlow every single day. The mas participants, as you see them here, they are here because Ms Bedlow said they would be participating. So I think at the end of the day, all of us are going to come together as Tobagonians, stakeholders, to make sure the Mother of Carnival takes place in Tobago.”

Bedlow, he claimed, has said that roughly 32 bands will be participating in Carnival.

“She has promised two things: that we will see more participation and also the quality of the mas, there would be significant improvement in that for 2023.”

At the launch, Arnold highlighted some of Tobago’s major events during the season. These include the national Panorama medium band finals, (Feb 12); TUCO’s Kaiso Extravaganza (Feb 13) and THA Pan Champs (Feb 14) and the Senior Kings, Queens and Individuals of Carnival competition (Feb 15), all of which are being held at the Parade Grounds, Dwight Yorke Stadium, Bacolet.

He also said attempts have been made to bring more events to Scarborough.

“One of the thinking in the room when we all met was that we need to bring back Scarborough J’Ouvert.”

Arnold said members of the protected services, who sat in on one of the meetings, agreed.

“One of the concerns was Tobago carnival, the last edition, the horror they had with the small roads, the narrow roads that were there.

“So actually the police were one of those who actually said they would welcome if we go into Scarborough. So that was another thing that we put into the mix.”

Arnold said Scarborough J’Ouvert has diminished over the years.

“As a place that has the infrastructure for the circular pattern and not affected by what may happen at the airport, the thinking is that we will make every attempt to put J’Ouvert back into Scarborough.”

He added the issue has also been discussed with Crown Point stakeholders.

Earlier, in her address, Assistant Secretary in the THA Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation Megan Morrison, said the upcoming festival will bring economic benefits for Tobago.

“After the hiatus that covid forced upon us, we can breathe a sigh of relief and expect high economic thrust coming out from this tourism influx that we will expect on our island,” she said.

Morrison urged the island’s creatives and service providers to put their best foot forward in representing themselves and Tobago.

“I welcome productive partnership with the Tobago Bandleaders’ Association, Pan Trinbago, TUCO, and the Windward Carnival Committee and all stakeholders to take this golden opportunity to blossom as a result of being locked down for so long. As we usher in this new chapter, I am expecting greatness.”

She said she welcomed recommendations, concerns and suggestions from stakeholders.

“As we aim to launch this Carnival, I am saying partner with us. We know that we are not in the best economic space and we know we can all make adjustments in pulling off the greatest show on earth, from a Tobago perspective.”


"Tobago Festivals CEO downplays threat of mas boycott"

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