By Keino Swamber Saturday, February 22 2014
ORGANISERS of “Socadrome” are denying that the move to extend the Parade of the Bands route westward on Carnival Tuesday is in any way elitist or segregationist.
There have been mixed reactions to Thursday evening’s announcement by the National Carnival Commission (NCC) that four large bands, namely Tribe, Yuma, Bliss and Harts, have been given permission to extend the route and mount their own stage at the Jean Pierre Complex in Port-of-Spain between 8 am and 4 pm. The endeavour is a private one with the associated costs being borne by the organisers.
Danielle Jones-Hunte, Media Liaison for the event, told Newsday yesterday that more than one million dollars is expected to be incurred to rent the venue, provide the infrastructure and additional security. The stage is expected to be the same size as the one at the Queen’s Park Savannah and will be built by the same contractor.
She said the organisers are not seeking to recoup this expenditure but there will be a $25 charge for spectators wishing to view the parade at the Jean Pierre Complex. Children accompanied by an adult will gain entrance to the venue free of charge.
The NCC said on Thursday that the move to extend the route is expected to reduce the masquerader count at the Savannah by 15,000 people.
Responding to the view expressed by some that the four bands were seeking to separate themselves from the rest of the mas fraternity, Jones-Hunte said a similar sentiment was expressed when all-inclusive mas was being introduced.
“There were a lot of questions and a lot of opposition,” Jones-Hunte said. “This is not about segregation, it’s about an option. The reason there are not more bands is because the managers of the facility at the Jean Pierre Complex obviously want to look out for their interests in protecting the integrity of the Jean Pierre Complex so there can only be so many bands. Another reason why I think it’s an option is because members of the public are really ready to have an additional venue where they can view mas.” Jones-Hunte said the reaction from their masqueraders has been positive but admitted some have expressed concern about not crossing the Savannah stage and others were wondering whether or not they would be a part of the established route at all. Harts has already indicated that their masqueraders will cross the Savannah stage very early on Carnival Tuesday as is customary.
The organisers are expected to take possession of the venue sometime next week to begin work but are assuring that the stage would be completed well in time for the revelry.
Asked whether other bands would be able to cross the stage at the Jean Pierre Complex, Jones-Hunte said consideration will be given to any King or Queen of the band wishing to display their costume there but a request must be made in advance. They will, however, be unable to accommodate much additional bands.
Lynette Dolly, spokesperson for a group of Woodbrook residents, who met with Port-of-Spain Mayor Raymond Tim-Kee on Tuesday, described the decision as a bad one.
“It was not properly thought out,” Dolly said yesterday. “With the closing off of additional streets, there will be traffic chaos for everyone.” She reiterated many of the residents are elderly people who would be affected by the music trucks. The residents are also concerned about the indiscriminate parking and patrons urinating on their walls. 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. 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 West Court, across a stage, out through the west court and exit the compound through the east gate, moving north on Hamilton Holder/ O’Connor Street and back to Ariapita Avenue. Port-of-Spain South Member of Parliament Marlene Mc Donald yesterday said she stands firmly with the residents of Woodbrook. In a statement, Mc Donald said the fact that the residents were not consulted is a slap in their faces. She said everyone supports moves to free up congestion at the Savannah, but not at the expense of a residential community. Trini Revellers leader David Cameron said although his band was not invited to parade along the extended route, he thinks it will help ease, somewhat, the congestion experienced by bands at the Savannah.
Contacted for comment on the impact the extended route will have on the police to carry out their duties, Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams said even though the resources of the Police Service are usually stretched to its limit during the parade days, they will do everything to ensure that everyone is safe. “We are hoping that out of that we may have some future indicators for the management of the bands in the city of Port-of-Spain,” Williams said.
Bandleader Roslyn Gabriel, a member of the TT Carnival Bands Association supports the initiative and has been in discussions with the Socadrome organisers to have her masqueraders join the route. National Carnival Bands Association president, David Lopez, said even though he is a NCC commissioner he had only heard of the decision yesterday. He said he had received calls from concerned masqueraders and bandleaders but did not wish to comment until he spoke with NCC chairman Allison Demas.