R. Rose
July 30, 2004
Carnival Ramblings

No sooner was my article on LIAT (See last week) published than, as if to test my faith in the regional carrier, I had yet another of those nightmare travelling experiences which make air travel in and out of St. Vincent a most unattractive, proposition. {{more}}Forced to travel to Barbados last Friday night in order to make a connection to London on Saturday evening (the flights that day were full), the all-to-regular LIAT breakdowns on the route left a whole group of us stranded at Arnos Vale until midnight.
Won’t repeat the comments of the very frustrated passengers, not just about LIAT but our airport service as well (all restaurants inside and outside the airport were closed).
We did get to our destination safely and having to wait all day for my flight connection I was delighted to be able to view via television Children’s Kadooment (Carnival) in Barbados. It helped to revive me after the travel experience and the pain of the beating that the West Indies had invited from England. Ever since I first stepped on a Carnival stage in the Court House Yard as a tiny toddler in the very early fifties, Children’s Carnival has been my favourite in the Festival.
It was therefore so encouraging and refreshing to savour the exuberance and innocence of Bajan youth as they paraded at the National Stadium. What I was particularly pleased to notice was that the parade was not limited to the children’s (yes, children, I can’t understand why we refer to them as “Kids”, they’re not young goats) section of the big Kadooment bands. Many of the children’s bands were in fact from primary schools including rural ones. They brought to the parade a variety of portrayals often lost in the competitive hurly-burly of our big-band dominated Children’s Festival. Original, historical and very creative presentations some focusing on issues like the environment and agriculture.
We have lost much of this in our Junior Carnival, which has become a rehearsal for Tuesday mas, a testing ground for the fortunes of the big bands as they compete to grab the lion’s share of the Carnival booty. The enjoyment of the children, widest possible participation, including by those thousands who cannot afford a glitzy costume but would be happy with a modest, original outfit, are sacrificed on the altar of Band-of-the-Yearism. Even the jump-up sees the children being crowded out by adults, taking over their one day of Carnival frolic.
Perhaps the organisers of Carnival can reflect on these and can come up with a revamped Junior Carnival, providing incentives for participation by the schools with emphasis on the rural schools. Many of our mas makers are unemployed or irregularly employed so we can be able to deploy some of their skills in the schools and we have a rich reservoir of retired giants of mas headed by such luminaries as Roy Ralph and “Sheggy” John who can be persuaded to play a role in this. Is it not worth giving it a try, for the sake of our Children and the future of our Festival?
The latter, the future direction of our Festival, is annually on the lips of Vincentians home and abroad but somehow we seem unable to capitalize on what we have. No one can deny the range of talent and skill, in all spheres, that we undoubtedly possess, but are we maximizing our potential.
If we think of the tremendously exciting product that we began re-packaging in 1977 and the end-product today, then it is clear that something has gone wrong somewhere in the production process. Even Vincies abroad no longer have the same unbridled enthusiasm about July Mas in the sun.
At the end of each year we do the annual post-mortem and always end up patting ourselves on the back or conversely ridiculing our efforts. One of our problems is, as De Man Age opined, “too much politics in we Carnival”. Not just now, mind you, it is as old as the July mas. But we are all getting into it now. Depending on when we support the Carnival is either good or bad and each Carnival, is compared with those when the “other party” was in power. Each government boasts on what it has done for the Festival and contrasts it with what the “other government” did or didn’t do.
On and on we go, but it is our national Festival which suffers in the process. When are we going to reclaim national ownership and therefore national responsibility?
I shall continue the ramblings in this vein next week.