Mind boggling figures and the fact that over the years most if not all of the major shows for carnival have been financial flops made it atop a table of discussion last weekend.
A two-day national consultation on Saint Lucia carnival revealed a number pertinent issues that continue to plague and stymie the growth of the event. Chief among them were issues with regards to proper venues for carnival related shows as well as financial support for carnival. However another key concern was that over the years most of the major carnival shows have been operating at great financial loss, something which came as a surprise to many of the participants at the consultation.
The Carnival consultation was held at the NIC Conference Room over a two-day period; Saturday January 15 and Sunday January 16, 2011. It was organized by the Cultural Development Foundation (CDF) with Embert Charles as facilitator. Ahead of the process a release from the CDF whose mandate it is to facilitate and manage cultural events like Carnival, stated that the main objective of the consultation would be to determine and clarify the way forward for Saint Luca carnival. Another objective was to establish guidelines for the management and production of carnival 2011.
Over the two days presentations were made by various carnival organizations including the Folk Research Centre (on the significance of carnival), the Carnival bands association, Calypsonians association, Steel bands association, community carnivals and the carnival queen committee. At the start of the consultation there were addressed by the chairman of the CDF Mr. Milton Branford, the Minister of Education and Culture Arsene James, and the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia Stephenson King. According to the Prime Minister the Government of Saint Lucia intends on throwing its support behind carnival. King also gave a commitment that the government will improve the arrangement and increase on the funding for the production and development of carnival in Saint Lucia. Following some of the presentations Saturday, requests were made by several participants for the disclosure of the financial figures for Carnival 2010.
The first order of business on the second day was on financing and the startling figures which the CDF was faced with in 2010. Among them was the whopping EC$100,000 spent on the national carnival queen pageant which saw returns of only EC$16,000, inter-commercial house on which EC$70,000 was spent, with EC$13,000 realized as gate receipts. In fact all of the major shows in 2010 lost monies including the opening of carnival on where EC$115,600 was spent but which brought in just EC$28,000. According to officials the high cost of service providers absorbed most of the money but some felt that there were other areas where cuts could be made to make the events more financially viable.
Also on day two the consultation saw presentations on Emergency plans (by NEMO), Marketing and Rights and Royalties with a presentation by the Eastern Caribbean Copyright Organization. Notably absent however were representatives from the police and the Saint Lucia Tourist Board, both of which were down to make presentations at the event. The SLTB over the last few years have been charged with marketing carnival regionally and internationally, something many of the participants last weekend felt that the body was not doing effectively and efficiently. The question of mass crowd events having to shut down at 2am was also brought up as a topic; with the question of security vis-a-vis the curtailing of the enjoyment of events by carnival lovers, drew a spate of debate.
A number of recommendations came through at the conclusion of the consultation including the possible provision of a full time carnival desk (secretariat) at the CDF, determining which events are deemed national, sponsors absorbing fully the responsibility of prizes, prize money and trophies, expanding the carnival season to begin from Easter Sunday and to end the third Tuesday in July.
This it was felt, would help facilitate greater participation of the community carnivals and avoid dates of the main events clashing with some of these. Participants at the consultation also proposed that the government establish through legislation, the date for carnival to be fixed as the third Monday and Tuesday of July in every year and that these two days should be public holidays.
Coming out of the consultation, a committee, comprising of two representatives each nominated by their main associations was established to assist the CDF in a thorough review of the financial management of the carnival events and make recommendations to the government.
A series of new initiatives was also proposed including the dates of the major events, with the view to making the final two weekend of carnival packed with the more popular activities. New judging areas for the national parade of the bands for 2011 was proposed as well as combining steel band and king and queen of the bands show, increased use of the new media (Internet, Facebook, Twitter) by the CDF for the promotion of carnival and inter-school and inter commercial house panorama. Training was also mooted as essential to the development of carnival with a proposal for a program for training in production of carnival, costumes and calypso, rights management and judging.
A communiqué coming from CDF following last weekend’s activity states that a full report of the consultation will be produced and circulated to all participants, other carnival stakeholders and the appropriate government ministries. The consultation, it also said approved the formation of a representative group of five people to work with the CDF to finalize the document for submission to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Education & Culture. This document is expected to be in the hands of the relative authorities by the end of January 2011. The ball will then be in the hands of the government to determine what aspects of Saint Lucia’s carnival as recommended will be adopted and what level of support will given to the event.