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Carnival 2013

Tobago bands upset over Toppin’s minstrels

Friday, February 15 2013

Bandleaders have vowed to boycott Tobago’s Carnival in 2014 if the present members of the Tobago Festivals Commission (TFC) are not removed.

During a briefing with the media in front of the commission’s office at Dutch Fort, Scarborough yesterday morning, bandleaders said the commission does not have the interest of Tobago’s Carnival at heart.

Their main issue is that fellow bandleader Lenn Toppin’s Minstrels of Tobago band, portraying “Big Minstrels Jubilee” on Carnival Tuesday amassed 1,312 points to earn second place in the Band of the Year category and a prize of $100,000. Toppin is the husband of Vernella Alleyne-Toppin, Minister in the Ministry of the People and Social Development and Tobago East MP. His band also won the senior Band of the Day on Monday and the Small Band titles on Tuesday and got $15,000 for each victory. However, members of the Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TCBA) object to results, arguing that the minstrel’s band was traditional mas and should not have been judged alongside conventional mas bands.

Candace Chang-Sandy, National Carnival Bands Association (Tobago) vice-chairman and leader Stoute Generation Next said it was unfair for the traditional minstrels band to compete, noting that it only had 20 members and placed second.

She said the rules indicated the ratio of adults to children should be 80/20 claimed Toppin’s band was mostly children.

There was no competition for traditional bands on Carnival Tuesday as they were to be judged on Carnival Monday, she stated.

Chang-Sandy also complained there were fewer bands in this year’s Tobago Carnival, which the Festivals Committee must address.

“If you look at the amount of bands that paraded the streets this year and even the bands paraded, the number of players we got, it has been greatly reduced and if they continue like this, it’s going to be reduced even further next year,” she said.

Jemma Bedlow, chairman of the Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TCBA), said the association had 18 bands in this year’s Carnival which included J’ouvert and Night Mas bands.

Bedlow said her members were upset with the placing of the minstrels band and called for mas bands to be allowed to manage the Carnival parade just as the pan and calypso associations run their own shows.

“The Festival Commission should just ensure the right infrastructure is in place and leave the mas persons to run the Carnival,” she said.

If the festival is not changed, Tobago bandleaders would not be out on the streets in 2014.

She said Tobago staged its best Carnival in 2003 when Rawle “Axeback” Titus was in charge of the Festival Commission.

That year, the Carnival had 13 junior bands and 30 adult bands, she said. “It has all gone downhill ever since,” she said.

In response to the bandleaders, TFC chairman Wendell Berkley said a meeting was held before Carnival to discuss the rules of the parade of the bands competition. He found it strange that bandleaders would call for the committee’s removal without even making an official query about the results.

The bandleaders have specifically called for Berkley, TFC manager Garnet Peters and other “political appointments” to be revoked.

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