Pulling off Carnival 2022 will be challenging

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Russel Grant displays his costume Montezuma during the King of Carnival finals at the 2020 Dimanche Gras at the Grand Stand, Queen’s Park Savannah. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI –

Stakeholders from all aspects of the Carnival industry are expressing frustration over the short period they have been given to prepare for Carnival 2022.

On Wednesday last week, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said Carnival events will be limited to safe-zone events. It said only concert-type events with masked, vaccinated participants, at 50 per cent capacity, will be allowed, such as soca, calypso and panconcerts; calypso tents; soca, calypso, extempo and chutney competitions; king and queen shows; and Carnival theatre.

Fetes and parties are banned owing to the higher risk of spreading covid19.

Speaking with the Newsday, Carnival king and queen costume-maker and wirebender Richard Lera said he does not see a king or queen competition as a realistic possibility. “Bands who enter the king and queen competitions rely on the parade and numbers in their band to cover the costs of king and queen costumes. Those costumes can cost well over $1 million, and right now that is the kind of money that no one has.”

He said the competition only had first, second and third place, meaning kings, queens and their bandleaders who do not place in the top three will be at a significant loss.

“It is just too much of a risk in these uncertain times. Other governments, like St Lucia, have given masmakers ample notice so that they can adequately prepare for the festival.”

Jules Sobion, CEO of Caesar’s Army and Czar, said he has been working to innovate the idea of Carnival since the last Carnival.

Sobion said while Caesar’s Army may not be able to have parties or participate in a parade, its online presence has been steadily growing. He said he intends to take the passion and culture of Carnival to the metaverse.

Sobion’s other company, Czar, specialises in Carnival theatre and has been putting on shows at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. He said he will be doing the same this year.

Jab jab Shalimar Buckreebee Alfred of Whip Masters said for the past two years, despite not having a Carnival the band still went out in small numbers on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. She said in 2021 it went to Arouca, Couva and Carapichima. Alfred said this year the band will be back out and following the covid19 public health guidelines.

She lamented the public response to the Government’s giving the go-ahead for a small version of Carnival, saying while she understands there is a pandemic, bars have been allowed to open, but bandleaders must be taken into consideration. “Bandleaders ought to be able to put something in place, even if it is for a small band. Let us be allowed to earn an income, just as they have with the bars.”

Speaking on behalf of the TT Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA), president Rosalind Gabriel said it was always known that Carnival, if allowed at all, would not be anything like previous ones, owing to covid19.

“We are very happy for the traditional and conventional mas communities who will have an opportunity to make and parade in their costumes this year, and for the kings and queens who will once more cross the stage in all their glory.”

Gabriel said the association has accepted the announcement with the knowledge that time is short.

“We know not all kings and queens will appear, but we feel certain that as creative people, who work well under pressure, we can put on a great show that would make our country proud and our masqueraders happy and masmakers/bandleaders working again.”

She said the association accepts and is prepared to work under the covid19 protocols and is looking forward to Carnival 2023, which can hopefully be as it once was.

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