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BANDS JUMP UP IN JEAN PIERRE

By KEINO SWAMBER Friday, February 21 2014

click on pic to zoom in

THE National Carnival Commission (NCC) has announced it has considered and accepted a proposal put forward by leaders of four mas bands to have the route for the Parade of the Bands extended on Carnival Tuesday, between 8 am and 4 pm.

Heads of mas bands Tribe, Yuma and Bliss have indicated they have no desire to cross the big stage and be judged at traditional judging venue Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain.

Instead, they have received permission from the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SPORTT) to utilise the Jean Pierre Complex where they will have their own stage. Harts will cross the Queen’s Park Savannah stage early on Carnival Tuesday, as is their tradition, and will then proceed to the Jean Pierre Complex. The costs associated with the change of route is to be borne by the four bands. In a statement to the media yesterday, the NCC said the move is expected to alleviate congestion by reducing masquerader count at the Savannah by approximately 15,000 persons. NCC chairman Allison Demas said the Commission is committed to providing Trinidad and Tobago with tangible transformation to the Carnival product. Demas said while participation in Carnival in Port-of-Spain has grown over the years, the parade route has remained the same, thus causing needless delays and bottlenecks which lead to a negative experience for bandleaders, masqueraders and spectators. “This route extension allows us to make a small change to the traditional route which we hope will allow us to see how best to apply systematic changes to the route toward making the Carnival experience a better one,” Demas said.

“While we acknowledge that we must be careful that the route extension does not bring an elitist division in Carnival, the NCC is guided by professional engineers who see a deeper merit to this route extension.”

The bands involved have agreed to set their parade in the St Clair area with Stanmore Avenue to the east being the furthest point. They will proceed west along Queen’s Park West and St Clair Avenue to Damien Street. Then they will proceed south on Damien Street to Bellesmythe Street (or Taylor Street) South on Bellesmythe Street (or Taylor Street) to Maraval Parkway, moving South on Maraval Parkway to enter the National Stadium compound through the Castro (west) gate. They will then parade around the outside of the stadium to the Jean Pierre complex’s West Court, across a stage installed in the Jean Pierre Complex, out through the West Court and exit the National Stadium compound through the east gate, moving north on Hamilton Holder/O’Connor Street and back to Ariapita Avenue.

Tribe’s Director of Operations Gerard Ramirez, welcomed this decision of the NCC. Ramirez told Newsday he believes the change will benefit both masqueraders and spectators alike.

“Everyone knows congestion has gotten worse and we need to improve the Carnival for everybody,” Ramirez said.

“We are happy to be part of this innovation and evolution of Carnival.” Asked about the cost the band will incur as a result of the route change and rental of the Jean Pierre Complex, Ramirez said that information was not yet available but they have given an undertaking to absorb the related expenses. He said the bandleaders were awaiting official word from the NCC before officially informing their masqueraders.

On Tuesday night, several Woodbrook residents expressed concern and spoke out against the proposal to have bands parade through their community. They cited excessive noise from music trucks, indiscriminate parking and patrons urinating on property walls as some of the reasons they have raised objections to the move. NCC officials said that Minister of National Security Gary Griffith, following discussions with senior police officials indicated that provisions will be made to increase the complement of protective personnel with members of the Defence Force to ensure the safety and security of masqueraders, spectators and residents. Griffith yesterday said his preference of what route, bands should take in Port-of-Spain on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, was irrelevant. He said that regardless of whether the bands use the current route or a different one, “we have put systems in place so the Ministry of National Security would be prepared to operate in any manner regarding a final route by the bands,” Griffith said.

Saying it is up to Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas and the NCC to determine mas routes, Griffith said, “What I am trying to do is ensure this will be as safe a Carnival as possible.” However he seemed to maintain reservations about the current route.

“The present situation is really cumbersome where you have 60,000 masqueraders trying to get into one area. It will cause massive congestion. It makes it difficult for crowd control,” Griffith said at the post Cabinet press conference yesterday at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. However, he reiterated that, “if it goes that way, we would operate in the same manner that law enforcement officials have done before.”

Demas said the route for bands which are being judged in the Band of the Year competition, remains the same.

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