“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” – Proverbs 2:6
I was minding my business a week ago last Saturday in Trinidad when, out of the blue, I received a phone call from the Antigua and Barbuda Hitz 91.9 FM radio station in St. John’s, asking whether I would sit on a radio panel of two on the following day.
I gathered from the caller that the programme was called “Big Issues” and there was some mention of my being able to contribute as a Caribbean consultant. The topic was about Antigua and Barbuda Carnival (July 25 to August 4), whereupon I enquired who recommended me. I was told that Rory Butler, a young journalist and CMEx-er (past participant in the Caribbean Media Exchange on Sustainable Tourism event series – www.cmexmedia.org ), had suggested that I join the panel. Based on Rory’s recommendation, I quickly convinced myself that I could make a contribution from a regional management consultant perspective and willingly accepted the invitation.
At the appointed time on Sunday, I was introduced by the moderator to the other panelist and the audience. His name was Daryl, I never got his second name, but I know that he is a major player in the creative aspects of carnival. Indeed I gathered that he was a band leader in this year’s festival. The panel discussion went on for just under an hour and the moderator was very skillful in effectively alternating the discussion between the two panelists.
On the following Tuesday morning, I was having breakfast when the phone rang, again out of the blue. A very concerned lady beseeches me not to propose that the Barbados Crop Over dates be changed. She advised that there was a report on Barbados radio the previous day stating that I had proposed on Antigua radio that the Barbados should change its Crop Over dates so as not to clash with Antigua’s carnival. Her rationale was that she is a Grenadian living in Barbados and she looked forward every year to enjoying the Barbados Crop Over celebrations and then proceeding soon after to her native land to continue the revelry.
I hastened to address her concern by assuring her that I had not said any such thing and indeed I was flattered to think that I could have such influence. She was not convinced and repeated please do not propose a change of the Barbados Crop Over dates and play havoc with her well established annual plans.
I was then able to stabilize the conversation to a point where I explained what I thought happened.
I recounted that during the panel discussion several issues were raised which included: (1) the ranking of the Carnivals in the Caribbean; (2) how to develop the Antigua and Barbuda annual carnival festival as a business; (3) the growth of the Barbados Crop Over festival; (4) the strategically placed annual festivals in Barbados; (5) the general enhancement of the cultural industries sector in the Caribbean; and (6) the rationalization of the timing of festivals in the Caribbean.
Daryl admitted that Trinidad and Tobago was the leader in the Caribbean but that Antigua and Barbuda was a major contender for second place. I made no comment since I have never witnessed Carnival in Antigua and I have never researched its history.
I advised that for Antigua and Barbuda to develop its annual carnival festival as a business, it could use its two year-old festival office as a focal point and develop a mix of good corporate governance, marketing, festival activities (including invitations to non-local artistes), people development and public and private sector funding systems around it.
I recalled that, as a teenager, I participated in the first Barbados Jaycees carnival in 1958 which ran annually from 1958 until 1964. Crop Over, as we know it today, had its origin through the Yoruba Foundation and then the Board of Tourism in 1974. The National Cultural Foundation was established in 1983 and has been conceptualizing and producing the festival which has evolved into the grand spectacle that it is today. Some traditions have been lost; some new ones have emerged and some have been transformed. It is now spread over a period of eight weeks and is considered a major financial stimulus in the country generating some BDS$80 million in economic activity throughout all tiers of the society.
Other popular annual festivals on the island are: Barbados Reggae Festival, Holders Season (a celebration of music and theatre), Holetown Festival (first settlement of Barbados by the British), Oistins’ Fish Festival, Barbados Food and Wine and Rum Festival, Open House Programme (showcasing Barbados’ most historic, luxurious or architecturally captivating homes), Open Gardens, Celtic Festival (historic links) and GospelFest.
I spoke about the general enhancement of the cultural industries sector in the Caribbean as a major foreign exchange earner. At a time when all countries of the Caribbean are looking to diversify their economies from the traditional sectors, why is only lip service being paid to this sector when it encompasses a plethora of indigenous talent?
Lastly, I lamented the fact that there was not a Caribbean administration which could rationalize the timing of festivals in the Caribbean so as to present them to the global market throughout the year rather than competing, as we do now, so that patrons have to make a choice if there is a clash in timing.
It is in this context, madam caller, that I may have been misquoted.
Now, let us all lift up our voices and pray for the wisdom of God to continually direct our efforts so that our collective wisdom may reach the ears of our leaders and positively impact their decision making.
(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET. His columns may be found at www.cbetmodel.org and www.nothingbeatsbusiness.com.)