Roy Mitchell bw

Carnival 2023, the much-hyped “Mother of All Carnivals”, will come, and it will go. When it is over, we will be treated to the stereotype refrain: the biggest and brightest ever. By that time , Government’s allocation of $147 million, already deemed insufficient, would have been fully committed, if not all spent.

Come what may, Carnival is here to stay. But what about its future? Is it living up to expectations? Is there a trajectory? Is the product evolving? Are we living up to the Vision of it being “the global leader of Carnival with consistent growth, satisfying all stakeholders with quality products and services that exceed all expectations” and to the Mission “to preserve the traditional heritage whilst ensuring its sustainable development as a viable industry”?

Has it progressed, stood still or regressed?

If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that, in spite of mammoth investments, our Carnival has been pathetically losing its lustre, key among which has been its most distinguishing feature - its unique outstanding creativity. Viewing thousands of beach-clad masqueraders is dull and uninteresting.

How viable an industry can the Carnival attest to be when its die-hard artisans are deprived their traditional earnings because most of our costumes are now imported? Who cares about the losses suffered in export of our limited foreign exchange? What specific economic benefits does the citizenry derive when vulnerable roadside vendors are forced to give way to all-inclusive band offerings? In the final analysis, who ensures that the country, as a whole, is better off following each year’s experience?

When we add to the Government’s substantial financial injection, the billions privately circulating among internal and external stakeholders, it becomes catastrophically clear that our Carnival is no longer a Labour of love nor exploits in creativity. It is big business. It has transitioned into a high, capital-intensive, one-off, nationwide, lucrative, self-serving business venture.

With such heightened economic activity gripping the nation year after year, and no accountability regarding return on investment, it behoves the Government to commission a study on the overall impact of Carnival on the socio-economic and cultural advancement of the citizenry and to make recommendations on the Future of Carnival with an emphasis on our society’s unique creative genius, once the hallmark of our Carnival product, and with a focus on determining how the returns realised can best be to the nation’s benefit.

An example of such is in the bringing back of the Buy Local Carnival Competition which was introduced simultaneously with Panorama in 1963. Dropping this far-reaching Buy Local Competition from the Carnival agenda was a most regrettable backward step, a blow to our entrepreneurs who invest millions and create thousands of jobs in the manufacture of home-grown commodities that compete fiercely against world-class imported brands.

With today’s advances in communication technology this unique Carnival competition, which attracted packed Grand and North Stand patrons, can now be streamed on the worldwide web, exposing our local products to the world-at-large. Think of the export potential, foreign exchange earnings, job creation, and the heightened commercial activity that will be generated: a made-to-order NCC/TTMA collaboration.

On a much grander scale, is it not worth contemplating the Carnival product as an integral component of nation-building: transitioning from insular disparate presentations, dictated by individual whims and fancies, to the virtues of collective identification with a nation-building Theme around which competing Carnival Presentations will be created?: themes like “The Future of Work”, “Exploring The Splendour of La Trinity”, “Unity in Diversity”, “The Society of Law and Order” to name a few: concepts of nation-building all in spirit, scope and depth. The potential for incredible creative interpretations and portrayals is mind boggling.

In similar manner, the Children’s Carnival should be assigned educational themes e.g. “Know your Country”, “National Icons”, “Shapes and Forms” etc.

Topping off this challenge to the creative genius of our people, is the worthiness of establishing equal terms on which judging of all presentations will be based: like with like.

Finally, will the restoration of the Carnival Queen Competition not enhance the product’s appeal, the winner of which should, in addition to receiving attractive sponsored prizes, enjoy the privilege of representing T&T at similar type festivals worldwide? Such a competition should best be organised by a civic body with judging criteria to include overall knowledge of Trinidad and Tobago’s unique peculiarities since the winner will, de facto, be an ambassadress-at-large during her one-year reign.

Prudence requires that, in aspiring toward greatness, we should align each major national event to a nation-building cornerstone, over-arched by a meaningful national purpose, a conversation about which attempts have been made, herein, to whet our appetite.

2024 should mark the commencement of T&T’s Carnival product upgrade. The alternative is to be overtaken by aspirants less creatively endowed.

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Last week Thursday, rioters stormed the residence of Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry. Others set up burning barricades. Businesses went full lockdown. A mob surged the airport, where Henry was returning from a foreign trip. He was rescued by a security squad.

Well, once again, the powers that be have baffled us, the mere citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. What is one left to feel when:

1. We’ve been left without a top cop for the last three years

2. The only person that seems eligible to the Police Service Commission is someone who will be retiring in the next four months?

I am writing to express my concern about the current state of the entrance to our city. As we are fast approaching the Carnival celebrations, it is important that we take the necessary steps to ensure that our city presents itself in the best possible light.

In our beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago, decent people are living in fear daily. Wayward and underprivileged youths, due to neglect and bad parenting, not even knowing how to read and write, if and when they did go to school, are murdering our citizens.

Congratulations to the CIC Carnival 2023 fete organi­sers who, from all accounts, hos­ted a “glitz and glamour” event at the CIC grounds last Satur­day. It appeared that “no stone was left unturned”. The cast of performers, with their exhilara­ting performances, certainly made it a spectacular event.

However, one concern was apparently overlooked by the honourable committee members: the sound system may have been turned inadvertently away from Federation Park, inner St Clair and possibly other areas behind the venue.