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Where have all the spectators gone?

Where were the people who usually go to the Big Yard for Carnival Monday and, particularly, Carnival Tuesday? Had it been the People’s National Move­ment (PNM) in power, we would have heard talk about it being the “Govern­ment” who was killing off the Carnival.
There appeared to be thousands more masqueraders than spectators in Port of Spain. In pursuit of the mighty dollar, have the public been horrendously overcharged for tickets to the Queen’s Park Savannah jud­ging point? Never have I ever seen so few persons in the Grand Stand. How much was charged for being at the Savannah? Staying home or taking your chances on the streets appears to have been the alternative for Carnival 2014.
So thousands of the employed paid for their expensive costumes and para­ded for mostly themselves to see. Aria­pita Avenue—the new Frederick Street and heart of Port of Spain—now provides the Carnival and year-round entertainment for “the people who live in town”. You can walk with your cooler and, for no extra charge, comfortably watch the masqueraders go by. Some friendly house owners and a couple bars that are open for business will allow you to use their toilet facilities. Avoiding the Savannah is a win-win situation for those with less money to spend this year.
There is an important sociological component that should be mentioned, in relation to the changes in Port of Spain spectators. We have pauperised the persons who have formed the “spectator” element. Persons whose families enjoyed part-time employment via social work programmes like CEPEP (Community-based Environmental Protection Enhancement Programme) have found themselves struggling to buy food with little or no income. Many have resorted to being vendors but with not quite enough income to spend on extras.
Added to the fact that people do not bother leaving San Fernando, Chagua­nas or Tobago, sees a Port of Spain on the breadline, with no contractor jobs to feed families as the majority of work is all in Central and south Trinidad.
With our fear about crime, more people prefer to remain at home and not get caught up in “police exercises”. Being a spectator is risky business. You could be breathalysed, car wrecked or just “look suspicious” and get yourself arrested. In the end, it is better to pay upwards of $5,000. for your costume and wine yourself right down to the ground. The band security officers will move you from under the feet of the police. Or stay in Chaguanas or San Fernando.
The Police Service, in its 200 per cent efforts to fight crime, sees many of us singing, “We ’fraid de Devil, we ’fraid him bad. Look de Devil, right in yuh yard.” The police, well intentioned as they are, have contributed to the disappearance of trusting, good, old-fashioned Carnival spectators.
The Port of Spain mayor has to save the city and its Carnival for everybody. Who else to ask? He can do it. He just has to rattle the chains of key players and agents of “divisiveness”, who shall remain nameless.
Lynette Joseph
via e-mail
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