THE abrupt cancellation of this year’s International Soca Monarch (ISM) is a symptom of something more seriously wrong with the production of Carnival, former organiser of the event and soca diva Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez has said.
Speaking with Newsday on Friday – the day after ISM organiser Geoffrey Wharton-Lake confirmed the event had been cancelled – Lyons-Alvarez, who took charge of the competition in 2019, said this should be used as a learning moment for all.
“Soca Monarch (cancellation) is just an ailment that is manifesting in the Carnival that we need to pay attention to. In five years, who knows if we will even have a Carnival?” Lyons-Alvarez said.
“It is an ailment. You know when you sick and your nose start to run and you get a headache? Well, this is your Carnival headache here. Most times people don’t check on a little cough or headache until they drop down and then they want to rush to hospital.
"This is a symptom that something needs to be done with Carnival, and we need to do it fast otherwise we will have no Carnival.”
Culture Minister Randall Mitchell, in a media release on Friday, said the cancellation stemmed from the State’s decision not to contribute almost $10 million which the organisers requested. He said the National Carnival Commission (NCC) approved $800,000 and later raised this sum to $3 million, with additional support.
Speaking with Newsday on Friday, another of the organisers, Ricky Raghunanan, said the decision to cancel came because of a lack of financial support. He added there was very little, if any corporate sponsorship and it was “us and the government.”
He added that the cost of putting on a quality show which the performers and fans deserved was in the region of $12 million and he was not willing to put his name to something that would have been sub-standard.
“I want Soca Monarch to be the best!” he said, adding that he respected the brand too much to consider putting on a sub-standard show.
NCC chairman Winston “Gypsy” Peters said government was not going to allow soca music to die “because private entities don’t want to take care of it.”
He gave this response when asked if the NCC would consider taking over the running of the competition, which has been in existence since 1993. He added that the competition’s name is copyrighted and there might be legal challenges if the Government moved to take full control of the show under the existing name.
All three – Lyons-Alvarez, Peters and Raghunanan – were in full agreement that this competition nurtures young and upcoming soca artistes and paved the way in the past for today's legends.
Soca stay Neil "Iwer" George said the cancellation was just another example of a Carnival event dying, similar to Brass Festival, Customs Fete and others of yesteryear.
“This is an opportunity for a new beginning. An opportunity to rebrand. It is sad news, yes,” George said, adding that he was not worried about the continuation of the competition.
Jesse “College Boy Jesse” Stewart, who won the Groovy category of the competition in 2020, said he will no longer be taking part in it, and is saddened by the cancellation.
Stewart said the event was a stepping stone for many to perfect their showmanship as they develop in the industry and he, having learnt, decided even if the competition was held, he would step aside to allow others an opportunity.
This year would have been the first official ISM competition since 2020.
In 2021, Darryl “Farmer Nappy” Henry won a version of the competition called The Monarch, which NCC said it does not recognise as an official ISM win. On Friday, Henry told Newsday he will not be entering the competition ever again.