Organizers of the national carnival events and the government appointed Carnival Planning Management Agency will have to contend with a much smaller budget this year. At a special meeting on Monday it was announced that the carnival budget for 2014 has been reduced from what pertained over the past few years.
On Monday May 19, the CPMA, along with officials from the Ministry of Creative Industries, held a meeting with stakeholders at the National Cultural Centre to make this announcement. According to Lyndon Arnold, chairman of the CPMA, government would this year inject EC$1.1 million into carnival, a drop of over 40% from last year’s EC$1.9 million. This, according to the CPMA chairman, would mean greater financial prudency and accountability on the part of organizers.
In the past, government would come to the aid of the various carnival planning organizations whenever there was a shortfall at the end of the carnival season. This will not be the case this year and organizers are expected to make the most of the EC$1.1mil. Additional funding and support for carnival is expected to come from sponsors.
On Monday, Deputy Chair of the CPMA Vaughn Charles said that the time had come to now revisit the high cost of producing events for carnival. “We now have to look at ways of managing these costs as well as reviewing some of the events on our calendar and whether we should keep them or do away with them.”
In the past there have been calls for many of the events to be privatized if there is to be growth, as government and the various agencies simply could not sustain them. These have included the National Soca Monarch competition; an event that has not only suffered major financial losses in recent years, but the quality has also been compromised.
It has been disclosed that over the last four years some of the events organized by the national planning committees (CDF, Carnival stakeholders) have incurred losses of more than EC$150.000. In fact, none of the events organized by the various national bodies have been profitable in recent times. These include Opening of Carnival, Carnival Queen Pageant, Soca Monarch, Groovy Soca Monarch, King and Queen of the Bands and Calypso Finals.
Incidentally, the only event over the past two years that has registered a profit, has been the national Panorama competition, which is run independently by the steelpan association. It must also be noted that a number of privately run events during Saint Lucia’s carnival namely Just 4 Fun’s Cooler Fete, The Wave’s “Sexy in Black,” RED Unlimited’s “Colour Me Red,” and Wet Fete have proven better success stories during carnival.
At a recent presentation by the CPMA, where new carnival director Teddy Francis was presented, it was announced that the time had come to make critical decisions. According to Francis it is now crucial not only to review events on the calendar, but to redefine some of these and give meaning, purpose and perspective to Saint Lucia Carnival.
“We have to take a look at the events and the calendar and have a holistic approach to the carnival product, even defining it going forward which would help us once and for all establish what is Saint Lucia Carnival and better enable us to market it going forward,” Francis says. He cites as an example the opening of carnival, which in the past was a novel concept where patrons got to see the Carnival Queen contestants and the costumes for the first time. “Now with several bands launching before the official opening of carnival, the purpose of the launch has now changed and we have to look at ways of giving new meaning to this event,” Francis states.
Saint Lucia Carnival is expected to be officially launched here on June 1 and will climax with the two day street parade and jump-up on July 20-21, 2014. Already a number of carnival bands including Just 4 Fun, Red Unlimited, Rituals and Toxik Nation have held launches. The most recent to launch was Royalites Extreme, which unveiled their 2014 portrayal on Monday at the Baywalk Mall.
Meanwhile, the Saint Lucia Calypsonians Association was expected to launch their calendar of activities last evening. And, already a number of Soca artistes have released their offerings for 2014.
With the budget cuts and the taxation of carnival activities, many are predicting that some events will suffer. Still, with sections of some bands already sold out, others feel that the show will go on.