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She’s in it for the long haul

Carol-Ann Tudor

She’s in it for the  long haul

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It has been a long hard road for bandleader Roseanne Lewis; but she’s not about to give up “just yet”.It’s her love for the Crop-Over Festivaland her passion for designing that have brought her this far.It was 26 years ago that Lewis first jumped in a Kadooment band – at the age of 17. Back then costumes were cheap –a mere $85, and Lewis was thrilled about participating in the biggest festival of the year.But that Kadooment Day turned out to be less than exciting, for she hadn’t gone five feet before her costume began to disintegrate – pieces dropping all over the street.Frustrated and disappointed, it was then that Lewis determined she could do way better, and thought of bringing her own Kadooment band, one that would involve the community.Her designing skills, which she had started honing from the time she was ten years old through a series of Government workshops, kicked in automatically; and two years later at 19 Lewis brought her first band: the Bush Hall Masqueraders.That year was one of the most memorable. Those who were helping had copped out under the pressure, but Lewis tarried on with the hard work.It brought her Biggest Band Of The Year, and she was personally congratulated by stalwarts Betty West and Gwyneth Squires who by that time had already created a name for themselves.“That year was really fantastic. I couldn’t believe that my first band had beaten Gwyneth and Betty’s. For me that wasa great achievement,”she said beaming.The 43-year-old bandleader, who stands just four feet eight, said things were tough back then, and “they are still tough now with regard to sponsors”.Lewis said that when she first started out she had no sponsors, but then gained Pepsi, the Barbados Light & Power Co., Plumbers Mart, and a few moreHowever, as the years went on, the sponsors dwindled. Now she has none. But that doesn’t stop her.“Even back in the day it was hard, because one of my main sponsors often waited till the last minute to distribute the money. So most of the time it was coming out of my pocket.” It has been the participation of the community every year that has helped Lewis weather the storm.This year, she said, was no different. She got few donations; so most of the materials needed once again came by her pocket.Yet every year the Bush Hall Masqueraders take to the streets and have a grand time.She told the WEEKEND NATION that the one good thing about bringing a small band was the involvement of the community.“You would be surprised to see how many people want to help, because it becomes more or less like an outreach programme. It is a place for them to sit and talk; it keeps them occupied, and some of them out of trouble. “So most of them keep coming every year,” the bandleader said.This year the 90-strong band We Sweet, We Sugary offered five sections, taking third place in the Community section. Although for a moment, the thought crossed her mind to stop producing, it was one that got no farther.“It is getting tougher to bring a band. You have to pay for the trailers, then VAT is added on, bathrooms, drinks . . . . The route this year was longer which expensed us more; the trailer man asked for more money, so did the DJ and the truck man, and I had to get way more drinks . . . .“Then sometimes when you know that you rightfully won, and then they give it to someone else, you feel like your time is wasted. When you see one person winning every year, you begin to think it’s time to stop,” Lewis lamented.  “If I didn’t love it, I would have been out a long time ago. Most of the time there is no profit to be made. So it’s more a love of the art form,” she stated.So strong is her love for designing and the festival, Lewis has already started sketching designs for her 2011 band. Asked what she would change if she were in charge of the National Cultural Foundation for one day, Lewis said she would raise the subvention so that bands would be forced to bring a King and Queen. This year there were no  Kings or Queens.“No matter which country you go to for Carnival, there is always a king and queen competition. So it just didn’t feel right to me,” she [email protected]