Tobago bandleaders are up in arms about what they say is a lack of communication from the Tobago Festivals Commission as well as the elimination of a number of events and prizes for Carnival.
Dressed in traditional Carnival costumes, they protested with banners and placards at the THA Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation's head office in Scarborough on Monday.
Among their complaints are the absence of J'Ouvert celebrations in Scarborough and confusion over the hosting of a senior parade of the bands. Despite Tobago Festivals still listing a senior parade of the bands on its Carnival agenda, bandleaders say the decision has been made to shift that event to October carnival.
Bandleader Marcelline Nedd told the media the Tobago Bandleaders Association held its elections on October 16 and told the Division of Tourism and Culture that it was ready for a meeting on Carnival.
She said on December 21, the three interest groups (pan, mas and calypso) met and the idea of having juniors participate solely in Scarborough was allegedly put forward by the administrators. She said it was noted that the children did not have their space in the October carnival.
"My chairman, Mrs Dianne McCrimmon, said she couldn’t give them an answer before she met with us, the bandleaders. She met with us...before New Year’s Day, and we said, 'No, we are not for that.'”
She said would be unfair to tell bandleaders there would be no senior bands in the national festival.
“They cannot say that – last October, there were children masquerading in Scarborough, so how could you now say that the juniors and them had no event.”
She added: “We have people who already buy their things for J’Ouvert now you’re telling us that there is no J’Ouvert in Scarborough because we had a J’Ouvert in October. That was in October, now you’re coming and you’re pushing Crown Point (J'Ouvert) in our face, Crown Point is private, so bandleaders have the option if you want to go to Crown Point.”
She said at Roxborough, they were told by the commission there would be a J'Ouvert without prizes.
She added: “As small as the carnival might be, the bandleaders still want to come and give Tobago a show. Now it’s for the Tobago people to appreciate the little that we have to bring out here for you all; but no, some of them does want to stay home and bad talk the bandleaders. We gave them back the budget from last year of $1.3 million and then we said that the juniors are the pillars of keeping the tradition alive so we give up the monies for prize, so more monies went to juniors than the seniors.”
During the protest, McCrimmon met with the secretary of the division, Tashia Burris, and officials from the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd.
After weeks of anticipation, the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd released the island’s carnival agenda on January 24 via social media.
The agenda came days after Chief Secretary Farley Augustine announced in a live video that there would be several changes to this year’s festival. For example, he said there would be no Afro Queen show in February.
He said the island is “in a transitioning position,” explaining that Tobago will be prepared to refine its February product so that it can take advantage of elements in the market that are now being dominated by Trinidad Carival. He said the focus would be on the marketing for domestic tourists.
The agenda contains several major events, including the THA's inter-department personality and calypso competition on February 1, the national medium band Panorama final on February 4 and the THA Pan Champs on February 6. These events were all held at the Parade Grounds of the Dwight Yorke Stadium in Bacolet.