After the last two months of personal pains, the advent of Carnival and the global spectacle of football’s World Cup have provided a welcome respite for me. On the entertainment level, these two events also complement each other as those who operate entertainment spots have found out to their benefit.
As regards Carnival, I have long ceased to be an active participant, though I try to keep in touch, especially where pan and calypso are concerned. You can say that I took “early retirement” after having participated beginning over 60 years ago, a legacy of my parents, which my siblings and I were able to pass on to our offspring and then down the line.
When the season is over there will be the usual public evaluation of how successful it was, but permit me some preliminary comments. First, let us look at the connection between Carnival and the Argyle International Airport (AIA), which is much more operational with direct international flights than in its Carnival initiation last year. I do hope that the AIA authorities have taken notice of the excellent promotional value of the calypsos sung by Danique “Sweet Dazell” Edwards of Greiggs, which earned second place in the Primary Schools competition and that of the third-placed Matthew John of Stubbs. Entitled “AIA IS GOOD”, Danique’s song can be used to promote the AIA and travel to SVG. Matthew’s “WELCOME TO SVG” is quite appropriate as well.
In addition to the many travel benefits, the AIA continues to have tremendous emotional and psychological appeal for Vincentians living extra-regionally. In paying tribute to my beloved sister, Toni, at a memorial service in her honour, Frankie George of New Montrose, like Toni, a long-time resident in New York, began, frankly speaking, by saying how rewarding it was for him to fly direct home after all the hassles of previous trips. He put it quite succinctly, being able to have “breakfast in New York and lunch here in SVG”. You can’t beat that!
While we await post-Carnival statistics on airport arrivals for the season, it is clear that the AIA is already proving to be a fillip to our tourism and Carnival. It is facilitating direct access to this country, ensuring that travellers from North America in particular can arrive without the frustration previously experienced in transit, including unwelcome overnight stays in some instances. In addition, the direct flights from North America have in turn facilitated greater access via previous transit points (Barbados, Trinidad, Grenada, St. Lucia and Antigua).
In relation to the Carnival activities themselves, one cannot help but empathize with our junior Carnival revellers, both pannists and mas players, as well as the organizers, who once again suffered from the vagaries of the weather, the Junior Panorama having had to be postponed by one day and then, both that event and the Junior Calypso finals being affected by persistent rain. Hats off to the youngsters, the bands and organisers for ensuring that these events concluded successfully!
As we look forward to the future, the idea of greater involvement of schools in Junior Mas, as in Junior Pan, must now be taken up seriously. Our major bands have made a tremendous contribution to Junior Mas and deserve every credit for it, but if we wish to widen and deepen participation, their expertise can be solicited in carrying mas to the schools. Junior Mas cannot just be another field of competition for the big bands, it can also accommodate school bands. It is not a good sign to see results being announced for individual competitions and in some instances, only the names of the bands and portrayals being mentioned, with no name of the children being announced.
One final point on Junior Mas, should the organisers not brief the guest entertainers about the content of the songs and performances they deliver to our precious youth? Yes, fun and enjoyment are the order of the day, but we do not have to further contribute to the negative aspects which are already plaguing our soca and contaminating our youth.
To conclude on Carnival, we need to give greater attention to the linkages to other aspects of the economy and society. I noted recently that Barbados is making more changes to integrate their Bridgetown market into the Crop-over Festival. How can we use our “hottest” carnival to market our “hottest” products and provide a platform for those who wish to go beyond fete and jump-up to experience the real SVG?
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.