I started to write a piece on Saint Lucia’s Carnival and what has been going on thus far this year, including last Sunday’s major flop—supposed to be the grand launch—at the Mindoo Phillip Park. But then I thought to myself, what can I say that I have not said before?
After all, the organizers of carnival, as with many things in Saint Lucia, love to dress up in the Emperor’s new clothes and pretend that everything is well when it really isn’t. And after listening to the responses from members of the CPMA about Sunday’s epic failure, it is clear that their heads are buried in carnival mud while their rear ends are exposed to the sun.
In 2010 in a piece entitled “Carnival Still In Disarray” I wrote: “In 2007, carnival aficionados and organizers were thrilled at the announcement that for the first time in its history, Saint Lucia Carnival would receive a major financial boost to the tune of EC$1 million dollars. Added to that, the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, which seemed to have looked down on the festival with scorn and disdain, would be playing a major part in marketing the event overseas and throwing its support in terms of organization and logistics behind it. However, just three short years later, Carnival seems back to square one, grappling for sponsorship and confirmation from government as to the value of their subvention to this year’s event.” Sound familiar?
The following year, in a piece entitled “Who will put an end to Carnival Commess?” I wrote another disenchanted piece:
“There is more mud around this carnival season than Hurricane Tomas could have ever dreamt of unleashing on our Fair Helen, but it would seem that we like it so, as there is no one with the gonads to put an end to all the madness, divisiveness, lack of organization and planning that is happening in carnival this year.
“Further, sadly, what is now being seen is a frag-mented event, with egos and personalities getting in the way, and a lack of resolutions for the public good. After all, carnival was once said to belong to the people, but now it would seem that some for selfish gain is attempting a coup of the event away from the people to whom it belongs.”
I went on to point out that the perennial issue plaguing carnival remained the question of venue and finance. However, for years national access to the event has also been overlooked and it remains primarily Castries-based, with no focus on decentralizing or making it accessible to persons in the rural communities. On the contrary, over the years more effort has been placed on spending money to attract visitors from overseas to the event, than for mobilizing our own people from within, as a means of increasing the numbers attending carnival events and consequently revenue.
In 2011, I indicated that carnival was plagued with a number of events being postponed and dates changed, which was “confusing to the news media and much moreso to the general public who seem unable to keep track.”
So it seems that in 2014 not much has changed. As I write, I have next to me a Carnival calendar of events that was issued by the CPMA when the “Director of Carnival” was introduced to the media some time in May. That calendar is in as much disarray as carnival itself.
Sunday’s event flopped for several reasons. Chief among those was the uncertainty surrounding whether there would be any opening at all.
Then there is the question of the opening having lost its appeal, several of the bands having launched with events already organised for Saint Lucia Carnival 2014. The fact that the event was not music driven, with many of the soca songs being released late this season—and not many hits, if any—was another factor. Also, to my mind Father’s Day was a poor choice for the launching of Carnival; not having the support of the Calypso Association or the Carnival Bands Association didn’t help either.
So what do we have now? An already strapped-for-cash carnival, throwing money down the drain to host an opening which saw less that 1,000 persons attending with about one quarter of those having free access. It’s a perennial problem faced by SLTB and CDF (now CPMA) who are not required to show profit when they are spending “the people’s money.” All they have to do is report “success,” whether in their minds or otherwise.
So what do I write now? What can I say that I have not already said, other than this year’s season is like even more like a runaway train on the wrong track. The end result, I dare say, will be a carnival catastrophe, with the main losers being the taxpayers and an already disorganized, unprofitable “creative industry.”