With the two biggest weeks of Crop-Over 2013 upon us, we are still hearing too many Barbadians complain they have not yet caught the festival fever.
There is no doubt that some of the big events so far, like last weekend’s Soca on de Hill at Farley Hill and Wadadah’s annual Back-to-School fete last Thursday at Kensington Oval attracted large crowds.
So too have the events staged by the festival’s principal organiser, the National Cultural Foundation, going back to the Cavalcades and the Opening Gala. What appears also to be clear is that many of the same people are turning up at these party events — not that there is anything wrong with that. This can be taken as an indication that participation is not as broad as the numbers might at first suggest.
Our reason for raising the issue is that we believe that when the stakeholders review Crop-Over 2013 one of the factors they must examine is what steps can be taken to broaden participating in the events. We are not necessarily calling for a major revamp of the individual events or the addition of new ones, although a thorough examination may reveal that this is necessary in some cases.
What we are saying is that we need to relook how we go about creating the kind of mass appeal that is necessary for Crop-Over to grow.
We are of the view that we need to utilise the huge archives of the festival to grow interest among Barbadians at home and abroad for future festivals. For while we are heartened by the performance of the junior calypsonians, for example, there appears to be strong evidence that the following is not growing — at least if we are judging from attendance at the tents.
Perhaps one of the decisions festival organisers and stakeholders need to make is that during the lead up to the festival the archives of a quarter century of tents and calypso competitions will become a staple on local television and radio. The intent of such a move would be to ensure that by the time the year’s competition begins the whole country is already in the calypso mood.
Additionally, while the failure or refusal of previous governments to approve television licences has been a major point of discussion, quietly the choices available to Barbadians has multiplied. We have moved from total dependence of CBC-TV Channel 8 to access to Multi-Choice Television, Lime TV and now Flow.
In this vastly altered environment is there room for a local culture channel that would allow for continuous exposure of what we produce in the arts?
Would the presence of such a channel, dedicating its programme to the exposure of the archives of Crop-Over for the three or four months prior to the actual start of the festival each year not have a positive impact on the interest of Bajans?
Is it untenable to think of the NCF and calypsonians teaming up to operate their own Internet-based Barbados calypso channel year-round? Of course it would call for the calypsonians in particular to broaden their thinking; but is achieving such an impossible task.
There is a clear need for changes that would reduce the number of people who each year complain they have not caught the fever. This is important because it suggest we are dealing with people who do have an interest in participating, but who cannot muster the level of motivation needed. This is distinctly different that the group that comprises people who could not care less if Crop-Over never came.
If we are in any doubt about the value of a “festival period” to a country’s economic and social life, then give a second thought to what is the result of the anticipation of and subsequent birth of the latest royal baby just 24 hours ago to the United Kingdom.
The ball is really in our court!