No time for a stand-off
Despite the changes made at the top for Carnival 2013, the old problems continue to plague its production on the ground. In some ways, Carnival seems change resistant with the most glaring being the old management habits of last-minute and now-for-now.
While the Dimanche Gras show has been crying out for fresh ideas and new style for years, the late decision to install a new NCC management and, thereafter, to introduce broad programmatic changes, has once again put Carnival's proverbial hand into the lion's mouth.
This time it is the bandleaders who believe they are under threat and are fighting back with a threat to boycott the King and Queen of Carnival competition.
With less than two weeks to go before the first round of competition begins, the National Carnival Bandleaders Association says it remains in the dark on a number of vital issues including prize money, backstage conditions, copyright issues and the judging process. Their unhappiness has been increased by the decision of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to reschedule the finals of the King and Queen competition from Carnival Sunday night to Friday night when it clashes with the highly popular Soca Monarch competition.
The bandleaders' seriousness is underscored by their emphatic position to stay off the competition stage unless their demands for information, transparency and better conditions are met.
It is reasonable for the bandleaders to worry about their competition suffering from the time-table clash with the Soca Monarch competition. The argument that the competitions draw different, non-competing audiences is purely speculative and lacks the empirical data needed for making a decision of such critical proportions. And here lies the heart of the intractable problem with which the management of Carnival continues to be afflicted.
For years, the multitude of Carnival interests have been pleading for better planning and execution of Carnival. Indeed, various administrations of the NCC have committed to just this, each promising a more professional Carnival without the trauma and waste that comes with ad hoc decision-making.
Apart from a few exceptions, however, the relevant government ministries and NCC managements have fallen short on the primary goal of delivering a controversy-free, well-designed Carnival experience. Clearly, expertise and good intentions are not enough to overcome the problems caused by deficient policy, inadequate planning and insufficient resources.
Notwithstanding the current threat by bandleaders, we hope that the respective parties will find reason and goodwill for staving off a boycott of the competition. For, what would our Carnival be without the grandest of the grand spectacle of Carnival costumes? While the lack of information on prize money has been cited among the problems, we would caution all sides to resist the temptation to believe that throwing money at the problems of Carnival will, by itself, solve the problem.
For now, we urge the parties to sit down and work out a compromise in the interest of Carnival 2013.