Janelle De Souza
Despite the physical lockdown of Carnival 2021, many organisations and artistes are working around covid19 restrictions and hosting virtual concerts and fetes.
And similar to any other year, the party is starting right after Christmas.
For example, there were at least three virtual concerts on Boxing Day including Kes the Band, Neil “Iwer” George, and Blaxx and D’ All Stars.
Several schools were also planning virtual fetes including Fatima Strive On by the Fatima Old Boys’ Association’s on January 2, Trinity College Soka in Moka Foundation’s Soka in Moka Uploaded on January 21, and Holy Name Convent is having a “cooler party experience” called Flight of the Virtual Phoenix on January 24.
Randy Glasgow Productions was also looking into a virtual version of its popular Chutneyland event, as well as physically-distanced comedy shows.
Asked if the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts had any plans to assist in facilitating physical Carnival events in 2021, Minister Randall Mitchell told Sunday Newsday that Carnival was over 400 days away so there was lot of time to plan for “the biggest ever Carnival.”
“The regulations are in place to ensure the safety of citizens in the face of this continuing pandemic. We do not want to experience further restrictive and economically devastating lockdowns such as the one the UK and other European counties are facing on account of new waves increased infection rates.
“Carnival as we know it will be back in 2022. What we need now is discipline, patient self-control to keep our infection rates low which will serve us best in the medium to long term.”
Yet, the show seems to be going on. Next year, Soka in Moka is going the extra mile and has an interactive element to its online event.
Dexter Charles, PRO of the Trinity College Soka in Moka Foundation said, “We decided as a group that we would not let the date go by notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s call for no Carnival. We couldn’t just do nothing.”
He said it was “the normal Soka in Moka fundraiser, just different.” The fete helps the school with its annual expenses.
Charles explained while people could watch the show on their devices, they could also use their mouse to navigate to different areas of the “compound.” Virtual reality goggles could also be used for a more immersive experience.
“You could go to the front of the stage, you could go to the booths and interact with sponsors or to play games and win prizes, or you could stay in the main area where there will be giveaways. It’s basically the same event but virtually.”
He also hoped to get restaurants involved in giving prizes and the food would be delivered to the winner during the event. But that has yet to be finalised.
Soka in Moka Uploaded would not be streamed on social media but on the online streaming platform Yellar TV. Early bird tickets will be available internationally at US$15 or TT$102 for a limited time. Regular tickets cost US$22 as it is the 22nd anniversary of the event.
Promoter Randy Glasgow of Randy Glasgow Productions said he knew of other promoters planning virtual events but no one wanted to “plan too hard” since the situation with covid19 was changing every day. But personally, his company wanted to do some live comedy events.
“We want to do something where people could go physically and have it socially distanced because there is no alcohol and dancing and so forth.”
He said comedians did not do many shows during the year and they may be “under pressure” financially so the company wanted to help them create some revenue.
“Presently we are in discussion with small, open-air venues that would allow an easily controlled crowd with social distancing. As you know, government spaces like NAPA and SAPA are operating and the Ministry of Culture is encouraging people to make things happen. We are sure promoters of mature events would take advantage of that.”
He said he was also looking into sponsors to have a virtual Chutneyland which could cost about $250,000 to pay for a location, the talent, video and audio crew, advertising and other logistical elements.
“It needs to be of a high calibre because it’s online and the world is watching so you have to put your best foot forward. It would require some resources to make it happen and showcase the country and our Carnival products in their best light.”
Still, he wanted the event to be free of charge to viewers if possible because, he said, Caribbean people were accustomed to watching events free online and it would be difficult to change their mindsets and get them to pay.
However, he said that would depend on the sponsorship the show received.
One entity that will not be going virtual in 2021 is K2K Alliance.
Initially, founders of the Carnival band, Kathy and Karen Norman, intended to have a virtual band. But, after a survey, they found that the majority of their clientele preferred to wait for 2022 when they could possibly be together again on the road.
They said they do believe a virtual Carnival could be a platform to drive digital transformation and innovation within the Carnival landscape, drive international exposure to TT’s culture, create a sense of normalcy in an unconventional environment, and promote family togetherness in a safe environment.
“Carnival is an evolution and with evolution, there is change. Carnival is much more than costuming. It is a form of storytelling for many creatives. It encompasses soca, calypso, steelpan, and the mas fraternity etc. To date, many creatives have already utilized virtual platforms to engage their audiences. And this is the beauty of Carnival and its evolution. We all change.”
They said they did not believe Carnival 2022 or the band would suffer for not happening in 2021.
“For many, Carnival is a pulse, a beat and a rhythm of TT. It is much more than just fetes. It is about togetherness. And as human beings, many of us yearn for socialisation, interaction and sometimes a break from mundane routines of life. With that said, we think that folks would be eager for 2022. However, this eagerness should not outweigh the health of the global economy.”