Carnival stakeholders gear up for 2023

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this October 2021 file photo Hadco Phase II Pan Groove leader Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, centre, practises with band members at the panyard in Woodbrook. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

Carnival stakeholders are ready for Carnival 2023 with some having started preparations well before the National Carnival Commission (NCC) posted a photo teasing the full return of Carnival celebrations on Friday.

Rosalind Gabriel, president of the TT Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA), said her members were anxious to create again, especially after producing king and queen costumes for A Taste of Carnival this year.

They were so anxious in fact, that just one week after A Taste of Carnival, the board met to discuss Carnival 2023. She said in July 2021 the TTCBA started making plans and writing proposals in case there was a 2022 Carnival. So the board just had to make some adjustments and put those plans in place for 2023.

On Saturday, the organisation met and worked out the dates of all mas competitions to take to the NCC on Monday. She said it was important to create a Carnival calendar as early as possible so people of the Caribbean diaspora, as well as foreigners, could have the time to make arrangements to visit TT for Carnival.

“We are very excited but very aware of the pandemic. I have not come across one hesitant person. So we will plan and monitor the situation and the public health guidelines. It’s better to be prepared than to be caught unawares.

“If later down, we have to modify, we will do so. But right now we’re planning for a full-scale Carnival as the pandemic seems to be subsiding in terms of deaths and new cases per day. We ready! We ready! We ready!”

She said during The Taste of Carnival, the individual mas players obeyed all protocols. Also, for 2020 Carnival, some masqueraders wore masks. So she was confident that the bands would “be sensible” and masqueraders would observe the protocols in place for 2023 Carnival.

She noted that Tribe Carnival band had a pop-up registration in the first week of March which sold out in a few hours even though people had not seen the costumes. Such a reaction underscored the excitement of both the bands and the masqueraders for a full-fledged Carnival.

Jerome “Rome” Precilla, president of the TT Promoters’ Association (TTPA), said his organisation was already in “full Carnival preparation mode” and had started putting things in place for Carnival 2023 well before the NCC’s post.

“We have a calendar of events ready for 2023. People have already started booking their venues, people have already started booking trucks for mas and J’Ouvert on the road, the Carnival bands have already started designing their costumes and ordering materials for band launches. Things are being prepared. The ball has already started rolling for Carnival 2023.”

He said his members have noted events, including sports, concerts and parties, taking place around the world and slowly going back to normal.

“We realise whatever happens out there eventually happens here after some time. So with about a year to Carnival, we predict that we should be able to have a normal Carnival.”

He said people would be “euphoric to come out” after missing Carnival for two years and believed Carnival 2023 would be one of the best because everyone would be well-prepared long in advance.

In this file photo, masqueraders from Wee Mas International move along South Quay, Port of Spain on Carnival Tuesday in 2020. – FILE PHOTO/SUREASH CHOLAI

However, the association was mindful that the pandemic was not over and so would monitor the situation and be vigilant.

“What we have learned over the past two years is that nothing is predictable. What is different this time around is that we are going to fully prepare for Carnival. Once given the green light, we will be ready to go.”

Hadco Phase II Pan Groove Steel Orchestra’s arranger Len “Boogsie” Sharpe said he, the orchestra’s members, pan lovers, and people in TT-styled carnivals around the world would be happy about having a full-fledged Carnival and Panorama in 2023.

“We just have to thank God. We just have to stay safe.”

Phase II captain Terry Bernard agreed saying all Carnival stakeholders would look forward to Carnival 2023 with “a great degree of excitement” after missing it for two years.

“That’s the engine that drives us. Our whole life changes around that time and the adrenaline keeps us going. We are looking forward to it with bated breath.”

He said the orchestra is always prepared to play. In fact, its members were prepared and “rearing to go” by December 2021 in case there was a Panorama this year.

“Usually we start getting ready after Christmas but with Carnival 2023 in the cards, we will start getting ready around August. And this (2022) being our 50th anniversary we have to be ready. We want to make a serious statement next year. Our musical director is raring to go. We ready!

“Once the government, NCC and Pan Trinbago say it’s safe to have a full-fledged Carnival we will be happy for it, as I’m sure will all those in the Carnival industry in the country.”

Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation president Ainsley King said for many calypsonians, Carnival was the time to practise and to earn income so he welcomed anything that would provide for the people his organisation represented.

“This is what we are here for. To continue to provide and ensure that we keep the artform alive and relevant so we welcome it.”

He said TUCO would begin making preparations soon but the organisation had other issues to address first, including ratifying its constitution.

“The time has come for TUCO to definitely look at ways of getting funding to be as independent as possible because the situation surrounding the arrangement presently is not too healthy.

“Based on that, we now will have to come together as a group and try to get rid of the trough mentality that people associate all the interest groups with, and to find ways to boost and build the community of which we are a part.”

He added that while A Taste of Carnival presented many challenges for TUCO, positives also came out of it. He said because there was no money for prizes for competition and the time to plan was limited, it opened up participation and created a new model from which it operated.

“Coming out of that whole experience honestly, we found more excitement and more fun.”

At the Point Fortin Hospital’s rededication ceremony and staff celebration on Saturday, Newsday asked Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh if he had Carnival discussions with the Culture Minister, Randall Mitchell, and what his advice would have been.

He responded, “There is a line minister of Carnival. I humbly suggest you speak to the minister responsible for tourism, culture and the arts.”