Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Time for NCC to take control

Express editorial logo304

Mark Fraser

 In the Carnival drama once again unfolding towards its March 3-4 climax, two emerging themes of concern merit national discussion.

One, flagged high last week at the launch by reigning King of Carnival Gerard Weekes of his new band, Mas Passion, is the future of what might be called art mas.

The other theme, pressed by Chutney Soca organiser George Singh, is the level and assurance of State funding.

Mr Weekes claims to be inspired by retired seven-time Band of the Year winner Brian MacFarlane. The Passion bandleader and entrepreneur also claims to be encouraged by former MacFarlane band members, eager to uphold the tradition of art mas that wins prizes and critical acclaim, but remains outside the Carnival mainstream.

Mr MacFarlane has contrasted his costuming and aspiration towards presenting the “Greatest Show on Earth” with the far more popular preference for playing “naked” mas as a massive “street party”.

Common to the impresarios of both Chutney Soca-type extravaganzas and the Tuesday mas spectaculars, however, is concern with the amount and timing of State funding.

It is regrettable that over successive administrations, the State, so far from exercising leadership and promoting a vision of Carnival in the national interest, has achieved little more than confirmed dependence upon itself as just the festival bankroller.

You would think that after all these annual productions, we would have some idea how to really put on the “Greatest Show…”, but instead, every year, we are greeted by squabbling and moaning, this time, by the bandleaders about the parade route and the promoters arriving at the Government’s door, once again, with their cap in hand.

If these shows are such massive crowd-pullers, thus earning healthy revenue, how is it their promoters are always insisting the State has to provide them with additional funding?

If they knew their State allocation is $1 million per annum, or even less, would they not adjust their expenses to suit rather than expect unlimited handouts from the taxpayers?

And with just weeks to go to Carnival Monday and Tuesday, the National Carnival Commission (NCC) is still debating the parade route through the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain. The NCC says it consulted bandleaders on a possible re-route since last year, but the bandleaders are only now responding to the proposal.

This annual confusion points to the need for the NCC to be set up as a business model, with the top-ranking officials being drawn from the private sector by attractive salaries, with the mandate of establishing Carnival as a self-sufficient entity, properly managed and not at the whim and fancy of individual bandleaders.

The NCC, with the right personnel at the helm, will make the hard decisions long in advance of the annual event, sticking to a strict format and wiping out the “anything-goes” mentality that rules on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

And if those calling the shots at the NCC get it wrong, they will be shown the door and new employees recruited to take their place.

But the unrestricted and non-regulated free-for-all cannot continue in perpetuity.