A press conference was aired in which the Prime Minister of St. Lucia announced that an alarming amount of $14 million was spent on the 2016 Jazz and Arts Festival. The previous budget, as disclosed by the Director of the St. Lucia Tourist Board, was very different. In fact, the approved budget for the production of the world renowned event was less than half the previously mentioned amount: $6.5 million.
The Prime Minister also mentioned that when B.E.T. J was lost, the opportunity to market a world class TV show was also lost. Television for the most part, including B.E.T, now has poor ratings and is struggling to stay relevant in this new world. Admittedly, B.E.T. is a bitter subject for many as it now seems that the country was being taken advantage of for years. St. Lucia was naïve and the organizers at the time were oblivious to the value of the content in their possession. The nation spent millions producing and filming a high-quality event but exclusive rights to the content. B.E.T. got paid to produce, film, package, sell and re-sell did not belong to the country. It was win-win, profit situation for them. No relationships were built, nor was any networking outside B.E.T. done, while directors at B.E.T. profited immensely from the situation.
After 25 years a lot has changed in the world but this is no reason to discontinue the festival. Even with social media and the internet, such content is still very valuable. St. Lucia can use these images to showcase itself as a destination to the world. The content from such an affair is still just as valuable as it was years ago. One cannot forget all the fringe activities which generated economic benefit to thousands of St. Lucians. The Jazz and Arts Festival allowed the month of May to be like the Christmas season all over again.
The idea of having a series of Summer Festivals is fantastic but the government should depart from the business of producing events. The current Prime Minister mentioned that he would spread the “$14 million dollars” from May to November and create a Summer Festival which would include Jazz, Carnival and Jounen Kweyol, many were not impressed. In other countries and neighboring islands, governments support events with marketing, infrastructure and security. This allows local promoters the opportunity to produce high quality events.
Currently, the government produces Carnival and its events. Carnival is losing its appeal in acquiring sponsorship and its premier event, Soca Monarch, is poorly marketed and attended. The big Soca names are all dropping out. Their quick fix would be to increase the prize money, when artists are looking for a lot more than a minute amount of wealth from the event. The private parties and shows marketed by local promoters are what attract the thousands of people who come for Carnival.
It is a fact that any project managed by the government is bound to be increased cost-wise. Government should not be the ones creating these festivals as it will cost tax payers millions more to produce. Personal experiences have led to the conclusion that there is a high probability of legal compensation by artist managers, service providers and patrons to the government. There are several existing events and festivals throughout the year that can be supported, key word being support, by government and be made into an attraction and marketed for tourism, the rest should be left to the professionals.
By: Dwayne Mendes