PETER WICKHAM: Room for growth in Crop Over
THE PRODUCERS OF THE 2015 Crop Over Festival, the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), should be congratulated for another successful event which brought some changes this year.
In the context of a festival which is young and growing, changes will be necessary from time to time and it is good that the producers resisted the temptation to be conservative, since our festival needs to set itself apart from the others across the region.
This review that follows will naturally pay more attention to the bad than the good, but should not be interpreted to mean that the overall product was anything less than outstanding.
Last year the police were said to have expressed concern about the fact that Foreday Morning came right after the Pic-O-De Crop Finals and while the shifting of either of these events was avoided last year, it became a reality on this occasion. Those among us who were associated with Foreday bands that left late in the morning might not have noticed a difference; however, those who departed early for Spring Garden would have noticed significantly less traffic than that which is normally associated with the termination of the Finals.
This comparative tranquillity is never a good thing to those of us who appreciate the importance of atmosphere and excitement and it is especially bad for those who anticipated twice as much commercial activity on Friday night. The clash of these two events has traditionally created a “buzz” which combined the serious calypso aficionados who sought to review the night’s outcome with those who were interested in the merriment of Foreday Morning. These two groups clashed at the Kensington corner and were forced to mingle since they had little alternative, but the outcome was a bounty of festival ambiance which was both absent and missed this year by revellers, reviewers and stall owners.
On account of this shift, Saturday night, which is usually an outright party night, was “burdened” with the seriousness of Finals to the detriment of those artistes who were fortunate enough to be included in the finals.
Certainly, the patrons could easily attend the Finals and thereafter look for a party to attend, but any serious calypsonian who was in pursuit of the crown would have needed to focus all available energies on Saturday night.
As such most parties would not have benefited from the live performances which now form the basis of the calypsonians’ livelihood outside of the tents. This was not good for the calypsonians economically, or for the party scene which the purists argue needs to benefit from social commentary.
One change which appears to have been embraced by most is the shift of the Soca Royale competition towards an entirely night-time event.
Previously there was a situation where some performers were presented in the day and others at night and this was an entirely uneven playing-field. The fact that all competitors were now performing in the night enhanced their offering and our entertainment package.
Having said this, however, a small point needs to be made that some performers used fireworks excessively in their performances, and this often became a distraction instead of an enhancement. Timing aside, the activity appears to have settled down nicely at the new Bushy Park venue, which is easily superior to the East Coast in terms of infrastructure to accommodate the value added facilities for patrons at different vantage points.
One issue that needs to be the subject of major national discussion is the future of both the Monday Kadooment parade and the Friday Foreday Morning jump. Both events are growing in cost annually, while the Foreday Morning jump is also growing in popularity which is in direct opposition to the Monday parade which appears to be attracting less interest.
Kadooment is more of a spectator event and is the culmination of the festival; hence it cannot be allowed to fail and needs urgent attention. The problems with Kadooment appear to be a combination of the environmental structure and cost.
There is little that can be done about the environmental structure, but quite a bit that can be done about the cost of it and this might require government to examine the extent to which it needs to rely on duties and taxes from the event. Perhaps if Kadooment were more easily affordable, then more of us would consider participating.
Peter W. Wickham is a political consultant and a director of Caribbean Development Research Services (CADRES). Email [email protected]