Boo pulls the plug on Saint Lucia Jazz

The average person usually associates more pomp and excitement to their twentieth anniversary than it would seem that the entire Saint Lucia Tourist Board and the Ministry of Tourism is centering on what will be the twentieth edition of Saint Lucia Jazz which runs from April 30 to May 8, 2011. But try offering advice and you may be scoffed at or met with a barrage of excuses from the PR, marketing and festival gurus at the SLTB. But, at least they were brazen enough to pull out from the airwaves (weeks after it was released) one of the most mundane advertisements for Saint Lucia Jazz, which captured absolutely no festival spirit, let alone the essence of a twentieth anniversary celebration.
Since being launched here with very little fanfare on Monday January 17, 2011, the promotion of Saint Lucia Jazz has been pretty low-key.
This year’s event will feature acts like Angelique Kidjo, Ledisi, Trey Songz, Regina Carter, Yellowjackets and John Legend, among others. However, there has been no huge amount of buzz about this year’s event.
Well this week the silence of the 2011 Saint Lucia Jazz was broken when one of Saint Lucia’s most acclaimed musicians spoke out against what he said was the lack of respect meted out to another Saint Lucian artiste by the SLTB.
Ronald “Boo” Hinkson, who has performed at several festivals locally, regionally and internationally, has always been one to speak out against injustices he has come up against as well as in defense of other musicians on the island.
Last Friday “Boo” spoke to the STAR saying that he was fed up with the Saint Lucia Tourist Board and particular individuals working there, and was pulling out of Saint Lucia Jazz 2011.
Boo was expected to perform on Sunday May 8 as part of the Saint Lucian Collective which will also feature Barbara Cadet and Emerson Nurse. The SLTB failed to negotiate with Luther Francois.
According to “Boo,” originally he discussed a twenty minute performance with the SLTB as part of the “Collective.”
“I was later presented with a contract saying that my performance was 75 minutes and a cover letter saying that the contract must be adhered to in strict accordance, which I questioned. When I gave the SLTB a price for my performance it was for twenty minutes so I will not sign something which says 75 minutes,” he went on.
After pointing this out to an official of the SLTB, Boo said there seemed to be a breakdown in communication and his concerns were never addressed.
In one of his e-mails to the SLTB Director “Boo” said he reminded him that the SLTB had reneged on a promise last year to fly his singer from the States.
“I had to find the money to bring her down myself because I had already made her cancel what she had to do in the US, in anticipation of performing here last year for Saint Lucia Jazz,” Boo said.
According to Boo a less than courteous response from the Director, asked him to keep the issues separate. “But what I wanted to do is show that there was a trend that was developing in the way they deal with the local acts.
“I want the SLTB to deal with the Saint Lucian artistes with the same measure of respect and professionalism as they do the international acts. Because we have earned our right to be on the festival stage and it should not be seen like they are doing us a favour,” the Saint Lucian musician says.
A meeting last week between Boo and the SLTB broke down when according to the musician some untruths were raised by one member about one of the persons in the collective saying that “Boo” could no longer be a part of the project. Even with the “Collective” itself “Boo” says there was no meeting with the members after the idea was mooted by the SLTB.
“How can you have a project with all of us and we have never been invited to a meeting?” he asks. He also feels that although Luther Francois had proposed a high performance fee for himself the SLTB could have persuaded him to be on board through negotiations. How can you have a Saint Lucian Collective without Luther Francois?” Boo also asks.
On Tuesday the STAR spoke to the Saint Lucia Jazz committee chairman Cuthbert Didier who says that the SLTB should be the one to put out a statement on the matter. But he added that the situation could have been resolved. When contacted the SLTB PR point man John Emmanuel said that as far as he knew the SLTB was not issuing any statement on the matter.
The SLTB boasted this year of the large number of national acts for Saint Lucia Jazz, including Alison Marquis, Augustin Jab Duplesis, Mervyn Wilkinson and Taj Weekes. However a recent change to the Jazz advertisement gives little prominence to theses, something which is not sitting well with the Saint Lucian musicians. Over the years a number of acts here have voiced their disapproval about the way they are dealt with by the SLTB ahead of and
during the festival. The local media too have cited certain biases in the way the local press is
treated as opposed to the red carpet rolled out for international press. Inside sources say that it is just one or two persons at the SLTB created a bad cancer that needs to be dealt with once and for all.
Certainly the Ministry of Tourism and the SLTB can ill afford any more anti-tourism sentiments that can arise out of this, from the entertainment fraternity and the media and by extension the public. Not at this time or ever.

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