Carnival was held after an absence of two years due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. However, it appeared that there wasn’t any significant improvement to the festival. The Unity Labour Party (ULP) government is killing carnival slowly. Carnival needs to be resuscitated.
The deliberate omission from the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) of competent personnel, especially if one is perceived to be a supporter of the New Democratic Party (NDP); the absence of new blood with fresh ideas from the CDC; the lack of innovation and creativity; the lack of marketing; insufficient prize money and the political interference of the overall management of the carnival are some of the reasons for the decline in Vincy Mas.
We cannot separate carnival from the creative arts. There is also a steady decline in creative arts in this country. The ULP government has failed miserably in the development of creative arts as well. In its 2001 manifesto, the ULP stated that it would have provided the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) with the financial, administrative and technical support necessary to make it function as the leader in the cultural field. After 21years the question is, where is the National Cultural Foundation today? Bear in mind, the NCF was established by the former NDP administration.
The ULP also promised to build a modern multi-purpose and aesthetically appealing Creative Arts Centre. Twenty one years later, Vincentians are still waiting for the Creative Arts Centre.
The way forward
The way forward must involve the removal of partisan politics from the management of carnival. In restructuring carnival, the NDP will invite individuals with the knowledge and experience to the table, to plan and ensure that we create and produce the ‘hottest carnival’ of which we continually boast.
The development of carnival will be part of our overall programme in culture, which includes the retooling of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) as an umbrella body under which the cultural and creative industries can develop and flourish.
Carnival in particular needs the infusion of new ideas and a revamped marketing strategy.
The management of Carnival will be incorporated under the National Cultural Foundation which will function to create an enabling environment for creativity without tight government censorship and control. And, consult with stakeholders and the general public for their suggestions.
The NDP will build a Performing Arts Centre. This Centre will be the hub from which our performing and graphic artists will be encouraged to grow and develop.
It will incorporate a well-designed, equipped and acoustically sound Performing Arts Facility. And, it will include a School of Music to accommodate the demands of Music theory and practice; instrumental training; formal voice training; assistance to modern popular music; classical training, the gospel artistes and calypsonians, etc. We will also create a National Youth Orchestra from that nucleus. Our graphic artists will be enabled to showcase their talents in the decoration of the public spaces as well as in the creation of sets and backdrops for all types of cultural performances. The Performing Arts Centre will also provide spaces to house exhibitions of our artists’ work.
Further, we will refurbish targeted Resource and Community Centres to include a space for music, dance and community theatre in various villages and towns. Revive our national biennial Music Festival, and revitalize and expand poetry, dance and drama festivals to cater for both young people and adults.
Encourage dance programmes in schools at the primary and secondary levels, support the efforts of independent teachers of dance and enable our talented dancers to continue to tertiary level and degree level programmes through the provision of scholarships and bursaries. And, provide support for cultural programmes at a village level which seek to reinforce our values and our indigenous culture.
The NDP will support and encourage active participation in our nation’s festivals including Gospel and Jazz/Blues. Support the expansion of culinary arts competitions, exhibitions, fairs and training programmes to encourage older community heads to pass on their skills and techniques to a younger generation. Exhibitions and fairs will be linked to cruise ship arrivals and other festivals. In this way, we can expand the range of attractions for visitors while at the same time providing opportunities for income generation locally.
We will assist the Calypso Association in finding a home and becoming self-sustaining and a support system for its members. Create an annual calendar of events which will form part of the Tourism strategy for marketing to visitors regionally and internationally. Fully support all initiatives taken to ensure that our artists and performers are properly rewarded for their talents and skills. To this end, we will enforce existing legislation that protects their interests, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will becomes a signatory of any international treaties that will benefit our artistes.
Implement a properly accredited Visual Arts and Design programmes in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the Caribbean Examinations Council and the University of the West Indies, and introduce a visual arts element in the syllabus for trainee teachers.
The NDP will also provide fiscal incentives to encourage the private sector investment in the music industry, carnival, and in cultural performances. Complete legislation to award National Honours.
The NDP had, in the past developed a system of local National Honours, and a Bill, providing for the declaration of National Heroes and the style and designation of the appropriate award, had its first reading in Parliament.
The NDP will revisit this legislation to ensure the recognition of exemplary contributions made to the development of our society by its citizens.
We must take politics out of carnival and culture. The best and most innovative Vincentians must be able to participate in the creation of a viable sustainable cultural industry which can aid our development as a people as well as usefully contribute to our country’s economic development.