From all accounts Carifesta 2019 is a cornucopia of Caribbean delights.
Shows have been well-attended and the Carifesta Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah has been abuzz with raucous Caribbean laughter and accents of all kinds as people dip in and out of the various booths selling artistic and artisanal products in a microcosmic version of the Caribbean Single Market.
As any seasoned Carifesta campaigner would know, the festival events are wonderful but the biggest thrill is the sound of people meeting people, hugging and declaring, like Nadia Batson, “Long time I eh see yuh!”
As one enters the Carifesta XIV Village at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, one immediately gets the sense that something wonderful awaits. And it is not disappointing.
The “Streets of the Caribbean” features famous buildings found in some of the Caribbean nations, among then Trinidad and Tobago’s own Twin Towers of the Eric Williams Financial Complex, the Chamberlain Bridge and Clock Tower in Barbados, the St John’s Cathedral in Antigua/Barbuda, the Suriname Presidential Palace and beautiful pastel-coloured houses in Cuba.
The nightly “Country Night” series has featured Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Guyana, Suriname and other countries presenting shows exploring their respective folk culture as well as their contemporary arts—music, dance, poetry and theatre. Audiences have expressed their appreciation for these presentations.
Then there are the shows at other venues such as NAPA, Queen’s Hall, SAPA, Naparima Bowl and the Black Box Theatre. Shows like the Caribbean Praise gospel concert at NAPA, Comedy Festival at SAPA, the East Indian concert at the Divali Nagar and the All Jazzed Up concert at NAPA were all “sold out”, leaving many people wanting to get the complimentary tickets of which there were just not enough to go around. Even the films being shown in the Carifesta XIV Film Festival have proven very popular.
So there is little to complain about. Except for the ticket system.
It is incredible that this problem, which has turned the magnificent event into a nightmare for so many, has not yet been resolved. This is no casual issue to be dismissed as “a teething problem” as project manager John Arnold rather insensitively attempted to do. It defies logic that so many people are being turned away from events for lack of tickets, only to hear later about large sections of empty seats. Once the problems of no-shows and ticket shortages were discovered, the management should have immediately moved to resolve them. Indeed, what is the point of a ticket system for first-come-first-served events?
First come first served should mean exactly that.
Carifesta XIV is such a thing of beauty. The fact that hundreds are lining up to attend events is evidence that the festival is a crowd puller and pleaser. A post-mortem on the challenges faced would go a long way in providing for a smoother festival next time around.