Will R. Kelly headline ‘Saint Lucia Jazz & Arts Festival?’

After hosting the now world famous Saint Lucia Jazz Festival for 21 years the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, organizers of the event, say they are getting ready to launch a new and improved event for 2013.         Held each year during the month of May, organizers have attempted to make the launch of the festival and the unveiling of the names of the performers as much of spectacle as the festival itself.
The launch of the 2013 edition of the Saint Lucia Jazz Festival will take place Thursday January 31 at the William Jefferson Ballroom, Sandals Grande at 7pm and is expected to be carried “live” on HTS channels 34 and 47, The Wave 94.5 and online on www.scruffytv.com In attendance at the event will be sponsors, representatives from the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, Government Officials and the Media and a red carpet welcome will precede the official proceedings.
Speaking to the STAR on Tuesday ahead of the launch, Public Relations Manager of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board John Emmanuel says that one can expect a fresher approach to the festival this year. “For us after twenty one years now going into the twenty second year, we felt that the event had somewhat plateaued. And so coming into this festival we did a major review process bringing in a number of focus groups, including the media to look at where we have been and to chart the way forward,” Emmanuel says.                 According to him, this year in announcing the line-up one will see a sort of reinventing of the event, not just in the performances but the whole festival itself.
“We have attempted to breathe new life into the event and appeal to a wider audience. What I can say is that what you will see is a richer stronger nexus between the performances and the creative industries sector here,” Emmanuel revealed. “So what you may see happening is involvement for example of persons involved in dance, poetry and theatre. You could be seeing that possible shift with the event on the whole. So we are pretty excited about something of the new things we will be doing and some of the changes as well,” he added without going into further details.
The STAR has however learnt that in light of the new thrust to create greater linkages between the festival and the creative industries here, the event will possibly be renamed “Saint Lucia Jazz and Arts Festival.” And whilst most board members seem to be in agreement with a name change, some are not thrilled about a possible return of the involvement of BET and Paxton Baker who once handled the bookings of the artiste as well as the technical and creative aspects of the event. “We are grateful for what BET and Paxton brought to the festival in the beginning,” a source told the Star. “However the event has moved on and over the last five years, most of the bookings were being done locally. It also seemed that during the BET era we were getting some of the acts at inflated prices and this year as soon as they showed up again, this seems to be the case,” our source went on. According to the source there was some wrangling late last year over the selection of R&B performer R. Kelly to headline the festival at a price tag of US$500,000 through BET. There was a possibility the Star has learnt, that that the singer being contracted for far less.
The BET involvement had been a source of concern in recent times, with several persons involved, seeking to have Saint Lucians take control fully of the artistic direction, technical aspect and bookings for the event. “If we went back in that direction this would be sad,” commented Allen Chastenet former Minister of Tourism who told the Star that during his tenure as Minister of Tourism everything was done to have Saint Lucia and Saint Lucians become more involved and more in control of the festival.
Ahead of Thursday’s launch a press release from the SLTB read; “over the 21 year history of the event, Saint Lucia Jazz has showcased an impressive list of internationally acclaimed artistes and has provided the platform for scores of local and regional entertainers.”
“A constant feature of the festival has been its ability to innovate, thereby remaining fresh and in keeping with the times. The 2013 festival promises to once again break new ground as presenting sponsor–The Saint Lucia Tourist Board–prepares to unveil a star-studded lineup and a fresh approach for the festival.” It will be left to be seen what “new” ground will be broken on Thursday as well as the “fresh” approach the festival is expected to take.

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