Reshaping Carnival for the future
A major result of the disastrous 2019-2021 period which has confronted our country, has been the tendency to focus on the damage to our society and how best to mitigate these setbacks.
The lingering, and we daresay worsening, effects of the COVID19 virus are still with us, causing massive disruptions in social and economic life and, now compounded by the explosive eruptions of the Soufriere volcano and its after-effects, present a very formidable challenge for recovery in such a small country as ours.
We are well into the halfway mark of the year. In any ordinary year, it would be carnival season in St Vincent and the Grenadines, replete with the myriad activities that comprise our major cultural festival. But this year, like the year before, there are no Carnival activities as we struggle to come to grips with the new reality.
It is of course not for lack of desire because in spite of the perilous situation into which we have been catapulted, social activities, even when we are supposed to respect health and safety protocols, indicate that many among us are virtually straining at the leash, raring to “let go” for Carnival. Reality however dictates otherwise and for the second year in succession, Carnival lovers must accommodate themselves to the sad reality that, as happened last year, there will be no Carnival 2021 in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
So what do we do? Moan over the loss of not just our social release and look forward to 2022 to catch up for our losses?
Insist that government find resources to compensate our Carnival-makers for loss of income these two years in succession?
Or look for a creative, forward-looking solution, utilizing the idle time to plan for the future? How can we utilize the apparent down-time and space to reflect, plan and shape our Carnival future?
Carnival has long ceased just to be a social release for our people, it is a major economic lever of our country and a gangplank of our tourism project. For two years now we have been unable to trigger that lever as we would have wished. By the time we get to 2022, circumstances would have changed considerably.
The very nature of carnival makes it a high-risk, potential “superspreader” of the coronavirus. It is impossible to have Carnival, at least according to our traditions, and observe “social distancing”. That means if we are to avoid tragic disaster then we must plan ahead how to deal with critical matters like mass arrival of tourists and ways to keep safe.
Tourism authorities all over the world are already battling with all kinds of measures. Our Carnival-makers must be in the forefront of such initiatives.
Wouldn’t it make sense therefore, that among all the wailing and gnashing of teeth, we take a positive proactive approach? We have already lost two Carnivals, and no one knows how 2022 will shape? Can we not engage in carnival dialogue and planning for the future, trying to anticipate trends and to place ourselves in the best possible position to take advantage of them?
We may well have to reshape our Carnival projections and adjust its nature to suit future trends. Is it an opportunity to overhaul our Festival, to ensure health and safety while advancing and deepening our major cultural festival, remaining original, but competitive and innovative? Should we not take those bold steps now?