Les Coteaux may opt out of Tobago Heritage Festival

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A scene from a play during the Heritage Festival 2023 staging in Les Coteaux. This year, Les Coteaux may opt out of the festival owing to financial difficulties. – File photo

FOR the first time since the Tobago Heritage Festival was first staged in 1987, Les Coteaux may not be taking part in this year’s event – the island’s signature cultural extravaganza.

The festival’s calendar of events has not yet been finalised, but it is expected to run for a month, culminating on August 1 – Emancipation Day.

This year, the event is being managed by the Tobago Festivals Commission Ltd.

Les Coteaux’s presentation – Folktales and Superstitions – is among the more eagerly anticipated.

But this year, sources said, insufficient funding could prevent the organisers – Les Coteaux Close Connection Cultural Group – from staging a production.

Republic Bank Ltd, which has been the village’s main sponsor for many years, has agreed to donate $100,000 toward the event, as did the Tobago House of Assembly (THA).

But Newsday understands that sum is still inadequate.

One source said Les Coteaux, unlike previous years, was asked to take charge of logistics for its show.

Rosie, left, throws a posy full of urine on spirits which followed her daughter home during Les Coteaux’s Folktales and Superstitions 2022 presentation, Tablepiece Recreational Ground, Les Coteaux. – File photo

“But from since they have been involved in Heritage, they have never been in charge of logistics. There are one or two things that the group would do as an organisation, but the festivals commission would have been in charge of logistics,” the source said.

The source said while the commission seems to be trying to let groups manage their own affairs, the Les Coteaux Close Connection Group is not a big organisation.

“But when you have a small group with less than 15 members, and some of them are young and have lives, jobs and school, it leaves (the work) now for the older ones, which is like three people who could run up and down but who also have lives, jobs and children to care of.

“So we cannot be running up and down and doing what we think that (the festivals commission) should do.

“If they say we are spoilt, they put us in that place.”

The source said the group, which has been rehearsing its skit, was told recently by a festivals commission official it would have to make do with its $200,000 in sponsorship.

“They are being told that they have to do everything – the stage, lighting, toilets, everything. And what they don’t know, the commission would guide them through it.”

The group, the source said, was taken aback.

“They asked the official what the commission was doing, and they were told they were organising the bar for all of the villages that are doing Heritage. They will also be responsible for the police and ambulance.

“But groups now are responsible for doing everything else for Heritage.”

Newsday understands the Close Connection members held an emergency meeting recently to discuss the feasibility of staging a production with $200,000.

The treasurer, the source said, reported the group spent about $230,000 on last year’s show.

“So the group does not have an additional $30,000 this year.”

The group is still waiting for the $15,400 it is owed for gate receipts since last year, when the festival was managed by the Division of Tourism, Culture, Antiquities and Transportation.

The source said normally the group would receive a sizeable sum upfront for its presentation.

“They would be able to pay the people for the bar, the truck man, singers, musicians, the person that designs the stage. But this year we are really strapped, because Les Coteaux Close Connection is a small group.

“When the day for Heritage comes around, the village looks as if the entire village was involved in putting the presentation together. But they have not been getting the support at all.”

The source said while other villages “might be able to take their $200,000 and run with it,” Les Coteaux is not so fortunate.

Other villages “might be able to…get people to do things for them voluntarily. But we don’t have that luxury. Everything that is done in Les Coteaux as a group, we have to pay for it.”

The source said the group’s members are sad and disappointed.

“They are thinking about their sponsors (Republic Bank), hoping they will not be embarrassed. They have not had a conversation with them as yet, so they are very worried they might embarrass them in some form or fashion.

“But that is not their intention. They are hopeful the decision will not affect their sponsorship going forward, because over the years they have always made Republic Bank very proud.”