Hard times have hit Crop Over.
And to such a degree that several events which were launched on the Crop Over calendar in January have been cut. The Cavalcades which signal the coming of the festival –– cancelled; The Crop Over Heritage Bus Tour –– cancelled; Junior Soca Monarch –– cancelled; Junior Kadooment After Party –– cancelled; Pan Yard Lime –– cancelled; both Evenings Of Interpretation –– cancelled.
There are also a number of changes in events, including the addition of a paid VIP section for Pan Pun De Sand and the return of the start of Grand Kadooment at the National Stadium.
Speaking at a media conference this evening at his office in Haggatt Hall, St Michael, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley said that Government’s financial constraints had made these changes inevitable and very critical. However, Lashley gave the assurance these cuts would not affect the festival’s core events or the staff employed at the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
Lashley said the NCF had projected it would incur an estimated $1.3 million deficit to produce the island’s premier cultural event. But while he could not give a dollar figure on what these amendments would likely save the foundation, he was sure that they would at least move the NCF towards having a balanced budget.
“In managing such a huge festival, it will [always] be difficult to please all parties; but we intend to be sensitive to the concerns of all Barbadians as we continue to plan and to execute Crop Over. As the festival grows we have to manage that growth,” he said.
Moreover, the minister appealed for corporate Barbados to get further involved in sponsoring the festival because the NCF could no longer carry the weight alone. He said: “Barbados does generate, based on the last figures, an average of between $70 million to $80 million in economic activity, and what that means is businesses . . . make money because of the increased activities.
“That money does not flow into the Government; it goes essentially to private sector. For the Crop Over experience to be bigger and for more events to be sustained and for companies and other entities to make significant gain, I believe directing some of the profit back into the festival is the biggest incentive.
“We feel we have been able to come up with a festival where we have been able to manage our costs better. I think we have come to the point where we have to have more private sector involvement in this festival. We believe this is a good time for the private sector to come on board . . . . We have created opportunities we believe should be filled by the private sector at a time when the entire country is going through some financial challenges; but these challenges, I have always said, need to be turned into opportunities.
“In the past, some persons have said that the NCF takes too much of the activities in Crop Over. But I believe now is a great time to see what the response is from the public sector and those persons who have been asking for a bit of the action of Crop Over,” he said, even as he promised a bigger festival than last year.
Stating that once again this year Cohobblopot would be “fully outsourced” to a private party, he also revealed that the Crop Over Gospel Concert would be produced through a NCF/private sector collaboration. Lashley added that the NCF was always willing to have discussions with the private sector, relative to staging some of the key events of the festival.
“Festivals do create a significant economic value added and they are a key part of the industry. There are a number of core sponsors who are extremely loyal to Crop Over and I want to thank them for their level of consistency. What I am asking for is for more sponsors, more corporate citizens, many of whom benefit from the intellectual property of Crop Over,” Lashley noted.