As a masquerader of long years, I continue to wonder why the issue of Carnival parade routes in Port of Spain seems to have become so intractable. It is clear the mas in Port of Spain has outgrown the capacity of the Savannah stage to handle all bands within one day. The obvious solution would seem to be to have bandleaders draw lots which would require some bands to cross the Savannah stage only on Monday and others only on Tuesday. Of course, there would need to be an alternative route for those bands not crossing the stage on each day.
Would this not be a simple solution which would avoid the issues that have arisen with changing the parade route for some bands (Socadrome), and changing the route by reversing the flow around the Savannah? It would require a culture change—those masqueraders who will cross the stage on Monday will now have to wear their full costume on Monday—but the big benefits will be that at least there will be real mas on both Monday and Tuesday on the Savannah stage, and the unbearable crush in the line-up will be alleviated to a large extent.
I would also like to suggest that it really would make much better sense for bands to approach the Savannah on Frederick Street rather than Charlotte Street. Last year, one of my friends, who was attempting to collect her husband from Port of Spain General Hospital, could get no further than the St Ann’s roundabout after two hours of trying to reach the hospital. Her husband had to walk from the hospital to St Ann’s roundabout.
How can this make sense? If there really was a major emergency, how would access to the hospital be facilitated within a short period of time, when bands are blocking access along Charlotte Street? I know the access is available in theory through Belmont, but my friend’s story gives the lie to that reality.
Finally, I would like to suggest that rather than these debates taking place one to two months before Carnival, the discussion and decisions taken should be made public within the six-month period following Carnival, so that there are no surprises when Carnival comes around the following year. I hope somewhere there are powers that be who may actually listen to a masquerader who would like to continue to enjoy the mas!