Party done! Musings on Trinidad Carnival 2014

Another Trinidad Carnival has come and gone. And it has left me with many more questions than answers. I’ll start with the most benign.

On a lighter note: masquerader tips, tricks…and lessons

  1. Toe pads do not work. At least not for me. Though, maybe my toes would be even worse without them.
  2. Kinesio tape rocks. If you have any injuries, old or new, get a good physiotherapist (like my childhood friend and now Doctor of Physical Therapy Carla Rauseo of the Total Rehab Clinic) or someone qualified to apply it where you need it. If only it would work for toes and the balls of my feet…!
  3. The jury is still out on boots. I eh sure ah could play in high heel boots again, nuh… Nuff respek to allyuh who does play in stilettos. Maybe I could play next time in flatter boots, to get some combo of cuteness and comfort. We shall see. I shall experiment from earlier next time…
  4. Sunblock, duh. Note to self: just because you didn’t wear a BBF(F) costume, Caroline, does not mean you get to skip sunscreen on Monday. The lesson was applied on Tuesday.

And now: the Parade of the Bands, Band of the Year, the Socadrome, and the cultural archive

The Band of the Year debacle

I do not understand how bands can win in the Downtown competition, and then not place in the overall competition. I also love All Stars Steel Orchestra. Steel Orchestra. And I love sailor mas. Sailor mas. I do not understand, however, how they could win Band of the Year overall. (And having genuine consternation does not automatically convert one from avid supporter to “hater”, for anyone inclined to make that mistake). Most of all, I do not understand how K2K Alliance & Partners (my horse — or bird — in this race) could possibly not place in the top five in the Medium Band Category. The comments on their page as well as on the NCBA results page show that I’m not alone.

But given the groundbreakingly strange results, several bands are querying them, requesting their score sheets, and/or threatening legal action, as reported in the Trinidad Express and Trinidad Guardian (and also here, and by Peter Ray Blood here). Dozens of bands were reportedly penalised and/or disqualified for not crossing Adam Smith Square first, a requirement I had neither heard of before nor can understand, as that would seem to transfer all the congestion to Ariapita Avenue and environs, while leaving the rest of the route and judging points empty for an indeterminate amount of time. And that’s without factoring in the mega-bands descending on Ariapita Avenue after leaving their Socadrome…

Still: congestion at the Savannah, Adam Smith Square, and lulls downtown

There was still congestion leading up to the Savannah stage even on Tuesday, lasting up to several hours. The absence of Socadrome bands (minus Harts, who crossed early and promptly as usual) did not ease the congestion markedly. The only solution I can think of is that bands possibly could have designated starting points at various locations along the route so that all judging points (and places where spectators pay their money to see bands pass) have a relatively steady free flow of masqueraders, and the Savannah — and now Adam Smith Square — congestion doesn’t bring the parade to a halt, while leaving those at South Quay staring at pavement for long periods while they wait for the next band to pass.

The Socadrome jury is still out

In theory, I think the concept makes sense and has potential. However, in practice in its first year, granted its pilot year — not so much. The biggest problem is that Socadrome bands exited the National Stadium and then processed on to Ariapita Avenue. The gridlock getting to Adam Smith Square then became akin to the jam en route to the Savannah stage, defeating the intended purpose of reducing congestion. (And yet, Mr. Lopez of the NCBA still insists bands should have started on Ariapita…)

The only way I can see the Socadrome working is if the bands use territory west of St. Clair, St. James, and the Stadium, not crossing or joining traditional NCBA routes at all — on both days. I then have to wonder if David Abdullah was right about this effectively “segregating the mas”. Alternatively, we keep the Savannah and traditional route, but half the bands cross Monday, and half on Tuesday (a long-suggested alternative which has never seemed to gain traction). Or, perhaps, that combined with bands not only having designated meeting points and routes, but even positions of appearance across judging points.

Accreditation and the missing Carnival archive

One of the things that most concerned me in this very chaotic Carnival year has been the question of archiving the best of our mas. I think once you’ve seen a few girls in BBF(F) — ie, bikini, beads, feathers and flesh — band wining, you’ve kinda seen them all. They may not be able to tag themselves on Facebook, but that’s what selfies, friend and family are for. Nevertheless, a vast number of photographers opted out of the Savannah on Carnival Tuesday for the Socadrome, a combined consequence it would seem of controversial NCC photography/archiving accreditation fees and some muscular PR on the part of Socadrome bands to ensure photographers documented their new initiative. The real mas, the real artistry, the real creativity paraded at the Savannah and other judging points seemed to get a lot less coverage. What, then, is the public record of Carnival 2014? Does it look overwhelmingly and disproportionately BBFF? What does it mean if there is a greater draw for photographers to document the series of bands that look almost identical than to document an artistry that sets Trinidad & Tobago’s creative sector apart on a world stage? As someone whose work involves some passionate cultural archiving, this concerns me greatly. This is something the powers that be need to think through.

Start early

Whatever people feel can work around the parade route, archiving, accreditation, judging overhauls et al (because these are just the musings of a Carnival lover), the stakeholders should meet soon, and hammer out the details so that we don’t find ourselves two months to Carnival next year and back in the same last-minute, half-baked mess as if we really didn’t see it coming. There have been enough thoughtful analyses and suggestions about our “endangered” Carnival to start from.

Photo: Resting on Ana Street in the gridlocked approach to Adam Smith Square…with very achy feet. Photo: Gina Marie.

One thought on “Party done! Musings on Trinidad Carnival 2014

  1. I missed you on Tuesday at Adam Smith Sq. I saw no-one. That said, route management and stage management (two different things although I think NCBA thinks it is all the same) have to be improved. Collective management of IP has to be better articulated to ALL. Accreditation was a joke. Mark Lyndersay spoke on that well. The big problem is that these issues are not new. Why are we still having problems like this year after year.


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