Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 28th 2017 Contents A20 life
guardian.co.tt Tuesday, February 28, 2017
A tabanca of potential
The technician leaned con-
spiratorially across the counter
at Marty Forscher's repair store.
"Were you deployed to Afghan-
It turned out that the only other
times they had taken apart cameras
in the condition of my failed Pen-
tax was from journalists or military
photographers in that war zone.
The fine dust that had ground
my gear to a halt had come flying
off the stage at the Queen's Park
Savannah in 1986, swept by huge
costumes and stomped into the air
by hundreds of dancing feet.
For decades, that was standard
operating procedure stateside at
the Savannah, an environment
with metaphorical teeth and claws
at every turn.
Since then, the hostility of of-
ficialdom has spread throughout
Trying to be too entrepreneur-
ial and create new approaches or
spaces in Carnival? Ask Dean Ack-
in about his experiences with the
Socadrome or Kurt Allen about the
Barrack Yard. Ask any small band or
individual who wants to do some-
thing small, unique or creative.
There's no mainstream space for
any of that.
Carnival once held my attention
as a photojournalist every year for
three straight weeks, right through
to a bleary-eyed Ash Wednesday
with a lagniappe on the following
Saturday at Pan Trinbago's Champs
In 2017, on this morning, the
NCC, abetted by its stakeholder
cronies, will again stage a Carnival
that studiously ignores everything
that happened in the world since
then. After demolishing the old
Grandstand, calypsonian and
politician Winston Peters rebuilt
an obsolete viewing stand for
horseracing with no reference to
modern wisdom informing the
creation of an audience platform
for a parade.
There is no virtual calypso tent.
No reliable authoritative stream
of Carnival coverage. No digital
downloads of off-the-board re-
cordings of steelband performanc-
es. No programming of shows for
21st century expectations.
I find myself in the grip of a crip-
pling heartbreak over this festival,
despite never having worn a cos-
tume, sung a calypso or beat a pan.
The role of the professional pho-
tojournalist is to record without
being tempted to intervene, and
Legendary masquerader Charles Peace makes his final appearance on the Savannah stage.
PHOTO: MARK LYNDERSAY
it requires a curious combination of
engagement and distance.
One makes friends, but not intimate
ones, the line between observer and col-
laborator/colleague is always so very
easy to cross.
Carnival is not dying, as some of its
detractors or nostalgic fans may think,
it is evolving despite the best efforts
of its administrators to prune anything
that looks out of place when it turns a
fresh bud to the light of recognition.
There is no doubt in my mind that
the worst thing to happen to Carnival
over the last two decades is the ramping
up of State support, fuelled by a flush
treasury and politicians seeking an easy
win with a large constituency.
That swamp of cash created a Cepep-
cracy first, an institutionalised expec-
tation that there will be a government
handout to lubricate the wheels of an
event that was running quite efficiently
on its own until the 1980's.
Virtually every major Carnival insti-
tution outside of soca entrepreneurs
and business-focused bandleaders now
depends almost entirely on massive
subventions just to break even.
The size and scale of Government
spending on the festival, hundreds of
millions annually, has pushed private
sector support to the sidelines, with
businesses preferring to cherrypick
safe promotional deals with the most
entrepreneurial projects, avoiding any
direct investment in the event as a busi-
As the scale of spending increased
and it became clear that successive
governments were not going to insist
on proper accounting for public funds
spent before disbursing the annual
subsidy, the whole mess apparently
collapsed into a kleptocracy.
There are things you never hear.
You never hear a Ministry of Culture
representative announce that full, au-
dited accounts of Carnival stakeholder
spending for the year have been pre-
sented to the satisfaction of the state.
No Minister of Culture has ever
been brave enough to bell this glaring
of smug, self-satisfied cats.
No NCC chairman has ever com-
manded the stewardship of the festival
with the full power granted to them by
Parliamentary act governing the Com-
mission's formation, nor have they de-
manded the backing of the state, whom
they represent as the major financier
of the event.
By today, calypsonians will have
sung, soca singers will have pranced,
pans will ring out with haunting, per-
cussive tone, hundreds of workers will
still be peeling glue and glitter from
under their fingernails and thousands
more will set their work to fly on the
streets of the city.
Not one of them has been well served
by the people who were elected to public
office to represent them.
They deserve more.
Better planning. Greater respon-
siveness. Bolder thinking. Honest rep-
resentation. Full accountability.
Carnival deserves more. But it won't
get it until the people who actually cre-
ate this festival demand it.
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