R. Rose
July 4, 2008
Kingstown too small

I OFTEN WONDER whether we do appreciate fully, not just the artistic skills of our calypso bards, but the great vision that they demonstrate in their more insightful compositions. Take the veteran I-Reality, for instance. Some three decades ago he warned us that “Kingstown too small fo’ we Carnival. ”Interesting view, we thought at the time, without giving serious credence to what he was saying. True, our new June-July Festival was proving to be a crowd-puller, but Kingstown too small….? {{more}}

Today it has taken another veteran, Exposer, to bring the matter into perspective. Not quite from the same angle, but Exposer is telling us that perhaps we need another venue, for our premier cultural festival. What are the threads connecting these compositions? Did Reality visualize something almost thirty years ago which we could not then grasp, but which his fellow calypsonian is making palpably clear now?

The changeover to the

midyear Festival turned out to be a real boost for Carnival in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It helped to spur the rapid growth and development of the Festival, making it a drawing card not only for our own people at home, but also attracting overseas-based nationals in droves as well as visitors from the Caribbean, North America and the UK/Europe. This presented its own challenges in terms of logistics, accommodation, entertainment etc. especially for a people then, (even now), unaccustomed to any mass influx of visitors. After all, previous to 1977, we had only the occasional tourist boat and an annual inflow of nationals for Nine Mornings/Christmas. But there was nothing on the scale that July Mas brought.

In addition to the human challenges there were physical limitations. Our capital city, Kingstown, is not the best advertisement for urban planning, not even for planning, period. True, it had its own idyllic attractions, surrounded as it is by hills and the sea with a view of the Grenadines to boot. Its small size makes it easy to get around by foot in particular. Kingstown once had a scenic harbour with a lovely black sand beach. The demands of development led to the deep water harbour spoiling the natural beauty without ever providing for a properly planned expansion. It was left to the whims and fancies of successive governments to decide what to do or not to do with the reclamation site. The short comings of that unplanned approach have been brought out in the forced relocation of major port operations to Camden Park.

This lack of planning and haphazard approach to development is manifested in the nightmare that is vehicular access in Kingstown today. Our limited three-street capital (we still say “Bay, Middle and Back” street) has been effectively reduced by street haw- king to a two-lane town very inconvenient for motorists and pedestrians alike. When we add the current horrors associated with the work on the Windward Highway (it is still a mystery why no night work takes place, perhaps the COW needs night rest), Kingstown is today not easy to negotiate. It must be more than a major irritant to visitors at this time of the year.

But that is not all. We have been rapidly encroaching on the open spaces in Kingstown, crowning it with the vegetable market monstrosity. The result is serious degradation of our environmental and recreational characteristics. Whilst our trade officials negotiate over market access, we are left to negotiate our own access to our main market. Perhaps we have become so health conscious that we are ashamed of our meat market, relegating it to a dirty back alley. Or is it that we don’t want outsiders to know that we still eat porpoise, throwing it in the back-alley meat mix?

All of this compounds the problems for our traffic regulators, police and masqueraders for Carnival. With Middle Street all but closed, the police have to devise annually tortuous routes for traffic. The more mas bands we get (and we keep exhorting more people to play mas), the bigger the headache for traffic flow and the greater impediment to masquerader

enjoyment. Kingstown has literally become “too small” for a Festival the expansion of which has outstripped our own development plans for the capital.

It is a serious challenge for our physical planners and for national development as a whole. Where does our 20-20 vision fit into this scenario? It is a good thing that our rural Carnivals are developing, providing some elbow room, even though narrow village streets are themselves constraints to mass entertainment possibilities. Perhaps now that there is a firm commitment to removing the airport from Arnos Vale (whatever the pros and cons), the spacious Arnos Vale area might provide us with an opportunity for proper long-term planning, including the physical future of Carnival itself. Wey yo say, Exposer?


Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.