Sunday, December 17, 2017

Another Carnival loss


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Another masman has decided to leave the Carnival arena out of frustration. For nine years, Brian MacFarlane has, arguably, kept alive the Minshall legacy of Carnival as art and theatre, bringing a different ethos and story to the Savannah stage. Now, he is giving up, defeated in part by the disorganisation and illogic in the management of the parade of the bands and especially by the financial challenges which, he claims, has him losing money.

Brian MacFarlane will be missed. Over the past nine years, he has served the Carnival with distinction and filled a void that was far too important to be left unattended. 

We doubt however, that MacFarlane's plea for bigger prize money for the Band of The Year winner is the solution to the problems he outlined. While we agree that the disparity between the $300,000 top prize for large bands and million-dollar prizes for competition in the other Carnival art forms has no basis in logic, we believe that the problems besetting the parade of the bands run far deeper than money. Nor do we think they can be solved, as MacFarlane might think, with reference to Rio carnival.

While Trinidad Carnival is notorious for confusion and controversy, there have been useful innovative solutions employed over the years. In terms of creativity and organisation, we have had better years. What we have not managed to cultivate on a sustained basis is settled and expert management that enjoys the confidence of the key Carnival interests. There is simply too much tinkering with the Carnival and not enough commitment to real and meaningful change. One such tinkering was the sudden hike in prize money a couple of years ago by then minister of the arts Winston "Gypsy" Peters. It is time to evaluate the impact of that increase.

It is at the top that we keep getting let down. To be fair to the Allison Demas-led executive, theirs was an impossible task given their appointment just three months before Carnival 2013. By the time they arrived in mid-November, Carnival 2013 was already well underway. Among their mistakes was their willingness to go along with the changes that Minister of the Arts, Dr Lincoln Douglas publicly desired for Dimanche Gras.

Given the limited time-frame for instituting major changes, the energies needed for managing the Carnival as a whole ran the risk of being diffused.

What is needed now is for the NCC, as the responsible agency, to engage in a detailed analysis of all aspects of Carnival 2013. The NCC has already scheduled a stakeholder consultation. This must be followed up by some expert input leading to a comprehensive report with recommendations for Carnival 2014 which should be discussed with input from the national community.

Brian MacFarlane has said he will no longer be in the Carnival but perhaps he, and others who have drifted away in disgust, will then find new reason to become excited and involved again.