Big Friday turns ‘ole mas’
By Leiselle Maraj Saturday, January 5 2013
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Lance Corporal Curtis Marshall...
Carnival Kings and Queens have turned their backs on a decision made by the National Carnival Bands’ Association (NCBA) to stage the finals of the Junior and Senior Kings and Queens of Carnival competitions on Carnival Friday.
In a heated meeting yesterday at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain masqueraders and producers of Kings and Queens costumes who were present made a decision to boycott the competitions unless the NCBA addressed their concerns of hosting the finals, dubbed Big Friday, on the same night and in close proximity to the International Soca Monarch Finals, which attracts tens of thousands of patrons.
The meeting was supposed to take place in the VIP booth at the Grand Stand without the presence of media personnel but was moved into the stand since attendees preferred to have the media present. NCBA secretary Wrenwrick Brown chaired the meeting and at first, tried to explain to the masmen and women the reasons for hosting the competition finals on February 8.
Carnival Friday night, he said, was always the NCBA’s night at the Savannah and has been used in the past to host the semi-finals of the senior competition. He said for the past three years, the NCBA noted an increase in ticket sales on the semi-final night.
He said the NCBA and other interest groups were given the mandate by the National Carnival Commission (NCC) to find ways of becoming self sufficient.
The NCBA met with representatives of the Kings and Queens at their office and that group decided it was a good idea to have the finals on Carnival Friday, he disclosed.
According to Brown, tour operators and hoteliers have pre-sold tickets to the Big Friday show through NCBA’s marketing.
“This indicated with the right type of marketing that this show would be one of the top shows on the Carnival calendar. That is where we want to carry it. We cannot carry it there without the Kings and Queens to make it happen in a positive way,” he said adding that the show will allow the Kings and Queens to have their own moment in the spotlight rather than being sandwiched between segments of the Calypso Monarch show. He said whoever is crowned the King and Queen, as part of the prize package, will be called upon by Government to represent Trinidad and Tobago wherever the country needs representation.
Last year’s Carnival King, Roland St George led the charge against the NCBA representative. Interrupting Brown, he said the group has heard NCBA’s promises before. Past King of Carnival, Curtis Eustace piped up at this point and demanded to know who were the persons from their group at the meeting who agreed to the Big Friday show. Brown did not respond.
Eustace questioned the increase in semi-finals ticket sales stating that the King and Queen semi- finals were split in two and yet did not attract large crowds.
“In 40 years, I have not missed Dimanche Gras. I have seen the show disintegrate year after year until it reached where it is,” he said. Eustace added the Friday night final had been tried before in 1987 when he won the King of Carnival title and there were less than 800 persons in the stands.
“It has been done before. This is not a new thing you are trying. It has failed. No one is going to come to a Friday night show when, less than two kilometres down the road, there is Soca Monarch,” he said, adding that because of marketing, Soca Monarch is being talked about even where he lives in Toronto, Canada.
Eustace said it was further disrespectful for the NCBA to pass out leaflets with dates and times of the shows, including Big Friday, when they were called to a meeting to discuss it. He lamented the art of Kings and Queens of the bands was dying because there was no incentive. He said while there was a $120,000 first prize for the King of Carnival competition, calypsonians received a $1 million first prize without expending half the time and effort it takes to build a King or Queen of the band costume.
“I am prepared today to boycott the show if the prize money is not improved or the day of show is not changed. Curtis Eustace say so,” he said while St George also voiced his intention of boycotting the show.
Brown, in response, said the prize money had increased but he could not say by how much. Marketing and advertising of Big Friday, he said, would begin next week. This was met with disapproval by meeting attendees who continued to voice their complaints about the show. Gerard Weekes, director of the recently formed Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA) and King of Brian Mac Farlane’s band, said at this point the group submitted recommendations to the NCC for solutions to the concerns they were discussing at that meeting.
The recommendations, made three weeks ago, included staging the finals on Carnival Wednesday, revealing the worth of the top prizes for the King and Queen competitions, addressing problems with the adjudication system and the issue of copyright. Eustace added if these issues were not addressed, at least ten of the big names in the Kings and Queens show will not participate.
After several more attendees voiced their concerns, Brown ended the meeting by saying the producer of the show would meet with interested masqueraders in the VIP booth of the stand and walked in that direction. While he was walking in the direction of the booth, attendees voted unanimously among themselves that they would not be participating in the competition and left the Savannah.
Speaking with Newsday in a telephone interview, NCC chairman Allison Demas said the commission made it clear to the TTCBA that the NCBA has been making plans about Big Friday for some time and expenditure on marketing and advertising the event had already been committed for the show. “I advise those members to hold strain for 2013. We are planning for Carnival 2014 much earlier so we may be able to resolve those issues in time,” she said.