Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley is absolutely correct, and we back him 100 per cent.
Last Friday night while speaking at the 2013 launch of a Crop-Over Festival icon, House of Soca Calypso Tent, Lashley expressed displeasure with the number of commercial entities in the country that profit handsomely from the festival but which refuse to make any financial or otherwise tangible contribution to the event.
Such conduct we consider reprehensible!
Not every board or business executive with the power to make the decision will want to back a wuk-up event, perhaps for religious reasons, or just simply because it does not gel with the character of their organisation. That we can understand.
But Crop-Over has evolved into so much more than wuk-up that there are a number of other “wholesome” activities with which any company could associate. In fact, if it were so minded, we believe even the church could find a Crop-Over event or two to sponsor.
But the real problem as far as we are concerned relates to the scores of Barbadian or Barbados-based businesses, and even foreign businesses with strong local representation, that profit handsomely between June, July and early August, but for some reason we can’t see even a hint of association with the festival.
We may be wrong, and even if we are, we can’t be very far off base when we say that we believe that during the Crop-Over Festival more spirited beverages are sold in this little island than at any time of the year, yet it is only a few whose name we see appearing as significant sponsors of any event.
Then we have the clothing sector, which between early May and Grand Kadooment Day, must sell hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in shirts, pants, dresses, shoes and everything else that adorns the bodies of primarily young people. What do these retailers give back to the festival?
We can also enter food into the equation because there is not a fete, party, lime, or whatever organisers choose to call their affair, that does not sell food, and lots of it. But where are the manufacturers and wholesalers on the Crop-Over sponsors’ roster?
The irony is that while some may think they are being business smart by raking in large sums of money at this time of year while giving out very little, they are actually limiting themselves by failing to invest in the festival. How much more would they rake in if they were contributing tangibly to the growth of the festival?
If you smile at sales growth of $100,000 or $200,000 during Crop-Over, while contributing nothing, how much broader would be your smile if a planned injection helped to expand the festival to the point where you can now gather half a million dollars instead?
There can’t be a single discerning individual who does not recognise that for all its growth and development, Crop-Over is a far way from hitting its pinnacle, but it will not get there while the National Cultural Foundation and all the other event organisers remain starved for cash.
Not every entity will be able to write a cheque for $200,000 in sponsorship, but there are a number of entities in this country with the capacity to do so, and which benefit from the festival, but selfishly refuse to contribute.
And there are also scores, perhaps hundreds, of smaller entities which could make a major difference if they would add their two-cents worth, instead of only taking while complaining they are not making enough.
If we want to rival Rio or Port-of-Spain we have to act like we are playing Test cricket and not beach cricket at Heywoods on Sunday evening.
“We have to take Crop-Over to the rest of the world… I believe that the time has come when we need to package the best of the festival and go on an expedition to major markets — New York, London, Washington, Berlin — and give persons who are unable to come to Barbados a taste of Crop-Over…
“We have a brand that is world class and we have calypsonians and writers of calypso who are world class,” Lashley said last Friday night.
Now imagine if sponsorship facilitated such a push; can we imagine the exposure Barbadian brands would have in these world centres if they were associated with the internationalisation of Crop-Over? We can’t do it by being cheap!