Mas men asking for an increase in prize money
Veteran mas band leader Kingsley Collis
May 16, 2023
Mas men asking for an increase in prize money

Veteran mas band leader Kingsley Collis, said that since 2010 mas men in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have been asking for an increase in prize money.

“…And up to this day we ain’t get it,” Collis told SEARCHLIGHT recently, stressing that once again this year, mas producers will like to see a raise.

Collis, is the leader of the High Voltage Mas band has been involved in costume building for more than 30 years. He stressed that the rise in the price of materials is affecting mas production in the country and an increase in prize money can help offset the price hikes.

Collis, a usually outspoken band leader said he got into mas production in 2003, and one year later, in 2004, mas producers had asked for a price increase, “and the authorities ask we where they going to get money from”.

He said he can recall that the authorities said they would tax private Carnival show tickets at 16% and that money was to be used to fund culture.

“2010 come and we ask for a price increase again. They told us where they going get, it so we knock heads together and we came up with the idea between the Prime Minister and ourselves and we came up with the idea- the drinks levy.

“They taking up over five million dollars annually whether Carnival or no Carnival, so is throughout the entire year they taking up over five million dollars … the record is there to show…,”Collis argued.

He said that in 2013 there were flash floods and the government asked that they be given some time in relation to the increase as the money had to be used for the greater good of the country.

“So we relaxed … then in 2014, the hurricane pass through so they ask we to relax again, so we relax … 2017 they asked that we do a little tweak of the prize increase because it’s long overdue.”

He related that he made a proposal for small increases, for instance, moving appearance fees from $82.50 to $98.00; moving the Junior King and Queen first place pay-out from $2,600 to $4,000; and moving the first place prize for Junior Individual (5 to 9 category) from $326. to $400.

Collis said that when it is all calculated, mas bands are asking for an accumulative increase of exactly $103,961.

“Now the talk of selling a costume- yes we have to market and sell our costumes but you can’t market and sell certain competitive costumes that easy because most times nobody comes and play that…

“If you check the history of Mas, no outside person come and ask to play a junior or senior king, they want to play an individual. Very rare, might be one in every 10 years you find somebody doing these things,” Collis said.

Further, he said that a music truck for the road costs around $10,000, while other expenses like swimsuits (use to be $30. now is $80.) have also risen, so it is hard to make ends meet while building Mas.

“… And when you raise the price of costumes people bawling.

“It hard to build a band and enter a competition where the production is more than the winnings. You building a mas cost $500. to win $326. … you building a mas cost $4,500 but the top price is $2,600,” Collis pointed out.

He said that mas bands want to be involved in every category because a band might not place first in one category but may gain a first place or other position in another category and that helps to accumulate prize money.

“So even you ain’t come first in one category, you get a piece of money still as appearance fees so it help you to pay whatever loan, whatever mortgage you take out, whoever you credit materials from.”

He added as well that to produce a band of 120 persons you have to spend approximately $35,000 but if you win with this small band, the top prize is $26,000 for Band of the Year.

“…So you see the loss … no band in SVG start out with $100,000… most of us get a loan, do a mortgage and you get a $20,000 or $10,000 and then sponsors sometime help but that is to increase spending power because no bands get the amount of money they need upfront unless they already rich…”.

Collis said the increase is just to help the bands break even.

He told SEARCHLIGHT that while he is speaking on behalf of his band, all the bands endorse the call for a prize increase.

Collis said that a few years ago, he had a production called “For the love of” because those were his carefree years when he did not the responsibilities of husband and dad but now he is older and he has to think differently.

He said he will challenge “the CBI …to name one person who financially benefit from the art forms different from music,” as he identified four music artistes who are doing and noting some others who are “just doing alright”.

“… They good and that is where I want to be, not rich, but good, and wake up and say my children need a shoes for school and coming from Mas I could buy that ….”

Collis, who is one of the few mas men that work overseas building costumes in places like Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and Grenada, said these countries pay well and that is one of his ways of surviving.

He said he has worked on and won King of the Bands and Queen of the Bands competitions abroad and considers himself an ambassador.

“The only thing I don’t do is carry costumes, but I do everything else. I sent a costume to Carriacou in February and won first place.”

Collis and his High Voltage crew will sit out this year’s carnival. He said he cannot fight for an increase on his own and only his band and Lynx Mas Band will not be producing Mas this year.

“It is not an unreasonable increase…” he stressed.

The Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) has repeatedly said it cannot afford a prize increase.