A full and thorough review of Carnival 2014, including the National Carnival Commission itself, is now urgently required.
For yet another year, the management of the country’s premier festival has fallen victim to a level of confusion that continues to undermine its potential and scuttle public confidence in its administration.
In addition to the mass confusion in the days leading to Carnival Monday and Tuesday, Tuesday’s poor spectator turnout in Port of Spain, both at the Socadrome and the Queen’s Park Savannah, provides additional evidence of the limited thinking that goes into making serious decisions with profound effects.
Whether or not the splitting of the capital’s parade to create the Socadrome ever develops into a good idea, the reality is it was put into effect without sufficient thought to the full implications for spectators, masqueraders, affected residents and the various elements within the Port of Spain Carnival economy.
While the congestion problem must be resolved, every solution put on the table should be carefully studied as to its potential impact.
In the case of the Socadrome, a major decision may have been made without the benefit of adequate consideration of all its possible consequences. In response, the confused spectating public appears to have exercised the option of staying away.
For all the inconvenience of the congestion, Port of Spain Carnival has steadily grown because of the dynamic energy that comes from the combination of tradition and modernity, and the interaction among rival masqueraders and between masqueraders and spectators. For all the inconvenience over the years, this incredible energy keeps people coming into the capital in increasing numbers just for the experience.
In solving the congestion problem, we have to be careful about disrupting the dynamic of Port of Spain’s Carnival.
On the flipside, reports from areas outside Port of Spain suggest that, given their doubts about Port of Spain this year, the crowds might have turned to regional Carnivals, bringing a boost to festivities outside the capital. In Port of Spain itself, traditional mas and steelbands which have been increasingly choked by the congestion moved about more freely on Tuesday and seemed to enjoy greater appreciation from spectators. Masqueraders also enjoyed a greater degree of ease, even when they complained about other things.
What remains clear is that the consultation process on which the NCC embarked after Carnival 2013 is far from complete and might even be flawed. This is why the NCC itself needs to be subject of enquiry in order to determine whether the right board and management are in place for the successful implementation of Carnival at all levels.
As a festival of fundamental importance to T&T, we cannot afford to be tinkering with the Carnival on a trial-by-error basis. We have far too much experience running Carnival to accept expediency and short-sightedness.
Before proceeding any further, we need to stop and take the time for a clinical review and analysis of what was right and wrong about Carnival 2014. In this, all voices must be heard and considered.