Blatant Inconsistencies and Mistrust in Judging of Mas
Editor: While most of the general public is not thinking about Carnival at present, the creators of Vincy Mas are patiently awaiting the Carnival Development Corporation’s (CDC) announcement of the date of its prestigious prize-giving ceremony for our national festival.
Ahdrenalin Carnival mas band is additionally waiting on the CDC to provide the original judges’ score sheets for the Band of the Year Competition. This request was submitted by Ahdrenalin Carnival on Monday July 15th, the week immediately following Carnival. We made a follow-up phone call to the CDC’s office two weeks ago to inquire and were told that the score sheets were not ready and as soon as they are, the CDC will let us know. To this day we have not heard a word. Please keep in mind that these are the same score sheets that the judges completed on Carnival Tuesday!
As the appearance of the score sheets hangs in the balance, allow me to provide some background as to why we chose to exercise our rights by asking for said score sheets. This year we were ranked 10th place for the second year in a row after several years of always placing in the bottom four or five. While we acknowledge that we are not the first mas band or component of Carnival to question the scoring, we do believe that enough peculiarities exist to raise eyebrows. You can read my essay posted on July 12th on our Facebook and Instagram pages (ahdrenalincarnival) that details how our band’s theme followed all the rules, stipulations and suggestions made by our judges and carnival experts. So, while we feel we had a strong offering for Vincy Mas 2019, I would not delve into that here, but instead focus on the questionable chain of events that took place behind the scenes.
The first strange occurrence happened towards the end of Mardi Gras on July 9th, when we were informed of the top 5 ranked bands, but however, not the positions of the other eight bands. It would be another two days before we would find out our actual position. During those two days we called our CDC representative to ascertain the results, only to be told that the full results were not yet ready. How could tallied scores determine the winner without knowing the total scores of all of the competitors, you ask? I do not know, but that is a question I would certainly like answered. Disturbingly enough though, this was not the first year that this has happened.
On Thursday July 11th, the Carnival Bands Association (CBA) held a post-mortem meeting with several of the judges in attendance. It was in this very meeting that we finally learned our actual position and those of the remaining bands outside of the top 5. Also, during this meeting, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the results and received near unanimous support from my mas colleagues. What was interesting was that most of the judges in attendance voluntarily expressed their support for Ahdrenalin as well. At least four of them stated that they scored Ahdrenalin in the top tier and that they were quite shocked that we were ranked as low as 10th. The judges were not obligated nor put on the spot to disclose their scoring decisions or preferences. So why does the law of averages seem not to apply to the results of the Band of the Year Competition?
That following Tuesday July 16th at 8am, the CDC held a special meeting with the judges to discuss Ahdrenalin Carnival. I was informed by the Chairman of the CBA/CDC that the focus of this meeting remained firmly on the notion that the first band that crosses the stage usually gets judged poorly; Ahdrenalin Carnival was this first band. This, I am told, is a problem going back years and is due to the judges not understanding how to properly set a benchmark score when judging the first band. Were we to accept this reasoning, then we would have to accept as fact that a known flaw in the system was allowed to remain intact for years without being corrected. How could this be? Why wasn’t this addressed in the annual judges’ workshops in which judges are trained and/or re-trained? Also, are we to ignore the several judges that stated that they scored Ahdrenalin Carnival much higher?
As you can clearly see, there are questions, but few answers that make sense. I have accurately recapped the facts as I witnessed them and as they were explained to me. The judges I spoke with are smart people and expressed their clear understanding of the rules. By my assessment, all of it does not add up. There is a definite mistrust in our mas judging system and it is not difficult to understand why when we are faced with these blatant inconsistencies. We need answers and way more transparency if we are to believe that the competition is fair. A lot of people’s talents, hard work and reputations are being squandered needlessly; and as I stated in my previous write-up online, this embarrassment is bigger than just one mas band, it is also an embarrassment for Vincy Mas in its entirety.
Errol M. Fraser