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Carnival time again

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Carnival Time Again Rain is a constant factor in Vincy Carnival ever since the dates were changed from the Pre-Lenten period to June/July. And maybe it is a necessary intervention in a Carnival dubbed the hottest in the Caribbean. This year we went through a rather long dry period which only began to break with the approach to carnival.{{more}} But as they say Rain Wouldn’t Stop the Carnival. So Carnival will go on rain or no rain. Carnival has also come at a good time for real Vincentian Sports Lovers to take their minds away from humiliating defeats suffered by our National Football team and the West Indies Cricket team. If we nurtured any thoughts that the Cricket team was on the rebound and had reached the end of its rebuilding stage, we had better think again. Clearly frustration was at the heart of that unfortunate incident when bottles and plastic glasses were thrown on to the field during the One Day game at the Arnos Vale Playing Field. That incident has certainly cast a dark shadow on our image, such as we have. But there was more. I was extremely mad when the Australian papers on the day following the match reported about a food riot at the Arnos Vale Playing Field. I wondered what they were talking about since I saw no such incident. Later, on enquiring I was told that there was an incident as described by the Australian Press outside the Party Stand. The purchase of a ticket apparently carried with it a snack box and the delivery van, I was told, was actually invaded by spectators when it arrived to deliver the goodies. Talk about image. There is really no letting up for us. Then before this Vincy Heat was far from being hot in its game against Canada. Patrons were clearly embarrassed by the very amateurish display which suggested that the team was really out of its league. It was no better with the return game although they were able once to reach the back of the Canadian net. There is certainly a lot of work to be done. We have to realise that we are in the big league and have to function at a different level. Clearly money is a problem because when Canada was taking on teams like Brazil we were testing our skills on Club teams in Trinidad. We did however play against the Reggae Boys and did some training elsewhere, I believe. But we have to stop the long talk and get down to business.

So let the Carnival begin! This weekend is the big weekend. Miss Carival tonight, the Soca Monarch competition tomorrow evening, the Dimanche Gras night of the finals in Calypso, Steel Band and the King and Queen of the Bands on Sunday, J’Ouvert on Monday Morning, the Vincy Street Party on Monday afternoon with T-shirt bands coming back as we used to know them and then Mardi Gras on Tuesday when it all reaches a climax with the Parade of Bands and Jumping on the Streets. A few of our outstanding artistes are no longer with us and the CDC and components of Carnival have seen it fit to honour them. Over the last year calypsonians Josiah and the Mighty Rey had left us and a few weeks ago in the midst of preparations for this year’s festivity, Roy, the Dragon Ralph, who has made such a sterling contribution to the Carnival Art Form, having invested the greater part of his life in creating Mas and adding to the Spectacle as we have known it over the years. One of the terrible ironies is that for one who has made such a contribution to Carnival he died virtually on the eve of this year’s spectacle.

It was good to see the tremendous interest and energy put into the Rural Carnivals this year. Although the real thing is what happens in Kingstown, the rural carnivals add to the flavour and create the spirit that moves into Kingstown and creates the spectacle there. There are more shows now than one could think about, particularly since, among other things, with an increase in the number of artistes it has become necessary to have more preliminary judging. The President of the Youlou Pan Movement has even called for preliminary judging of the Junior Panorama Competition based on the growing number of young steelband sides. Of course with more shows there is increased pressure on patrons to find the means to attend these shows. Many persons will therefore identify the shows they want to attend and operate accordingly. It is therefore necessary to ensure that we attract more visitors for visitors who come in for Carnival come in prepared to attend as many shows as possible. I don’t know how many will continue to relish the thought of coming here and having LIAT bring their luggage two or three days after.

We often see Carnival as a welcome opportunity to turn our attention away from our troubles, from the headaches that we face in our daily life. But we can never divorce ourselves from the realities. Calculations have to be made to provide a balance between attending as many shows as possible and making sure that the funds are available to buy books and uniforms for our sons and daughters who are in school. This year has been a particularly bad year with increased costs on just about everything and meeting the value added taxes even on some basic commodities. We cannot run away from our problems because they are before us even at Carnival. Carnival it is hoped would provide opportunities for some people. The number of ice boxes, bars and street vendors is testimony to this. I am not sure if there has ever been a study done on this but clearly a significant amount of money is injected into the economy. It would be good to have a scientific study on this and to see where the money goes and how much. Culture in whatever form cannot be seen in isolation. It has become big business. Many of our calypsonians and soca artistes produce CDs and hope to be able to sell them. Those who emerge on top, hope that their newly found status would provide opportunities for them beyond carnival. But a significant number of our artistes still do what they do for the sheer enjoyment. But these are different and difficult times. We all have skills in particular areas and hope that opportunities would present themselves to make a living from those skills but many of our talented people at Carnival display their creativity and talent and then disappear only to reappear again the next year. We have to be able to create opportunities to utilise that creative energy in very productive ways beyond Carnival and in areas that would allow the artiste to make a living. But for many the opportunities only arise at certain times of the year.

It was interesting to hear Our national football coach Stewart John Hall listing the lack of a vibrant social life in SVG as contributing to his decision to resign from his position. Those persons who come here at Carnival could always look forward to a lot of activities; to a lot of things to do, but it is a different story outside of Carnival. A Vincentian friend of mine who lives elsewhere and spent a few weeks here recently wrote the following to me on his return; “What do we have to offer by way of entertainment to tourists who visit us?…there is really nothing on offer in SVG outside of Carnival, the Blues Festival and the occasional regatta”. Something is really wrong because we have enormous talent which only appears to surface at some times of the year. We need to begin to create partnerships and pull things together. There is certainly life beyond carnival.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a historian and social commentator.

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