Stakeholders in the Crop Over Festival have expressed mixed feelings over the decision of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) to cut a number of events from this year’s official calendar.
While some had anticipated the cuts, at least one tent manager today voiced strong concern that the development will hinder the national festival and negatively impact on the employment situation, particularly as it relates to those Barbadians who rely on Crop Over every year for part-time employment.
“Some persons right now might be looking [to Crop Over] to find employment for a ten week period,” said Sharon Carew-White, manager of House of Soca calypso tent.
However, with the cancellation of several events, she asked: ‘What are we saying now, that we are no longer trying to offer work to persons?”
She noted that the festival could have offered an opportunity for persons who have been laid off to seek work between June and August.
However, the manager of Kingdom of Super Gladiators, Roy Byer, said he believed Government had no choice but to make the cuts, given its ongoing programme of retrenchment in the Public Service.
“Them ain’t got no choice because it going to look bad if you continue with the festival as it is, and add things to it, whilst people are going home. That is something they have to look at and I believe that they have looked at it. It all comes down to cost cutting measures,” Byer said.
He was unwilling to go as far as to state that the move was “a backward step” but noted that it had come at “a hard time on Crop Over’s 40th anniversary”.
“Normally on the 40th anniversary you try to do things that would be uplifting and so that you know what you have been doing for the time that you are celebrating. But to have to cut them now on a 40th anniversary when life begins at 40, life like it dying at 40. It is a very serious matter,” said Byer, who is already looking ahead to next year’s festival in anticipation that the organisers would be able to muster enough financial support to remedy this year’s situation and to have this year’s cancelled events returned to the calendar.
During a news conference yesterday, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley announced that the Cavalcades, which usually signal the coming of the festival; the Crop Over Heritage Bus Tour; the Junior Soca Monarch; Junior Kadooment After Party; Pan Yard Lime and both Evenings Of Interpretation had all been cancelled as a result of Government’s financial constraints.
However, Lashley gave the assurance that these cuts would not affect the festival’s core events or the staff employed at the NCF.
In response, Byer, who is a Crop Over veteran, said: “The cut of the Cavalcades was neither here nor there because I don’t think the Cavalcades serve any real purpose. The Cavalcades should have been used as a tool to listen to the party music and judge it whilst it was on the move and pick out the ones that would go to the finals,” he added.
John Roett, prominent arranger and producer, also commented on the developments saying he did not believe that either the NCF or the Ministry of Culture had done anything bad in making the necessary changes.
He said that while some Barbadians may be upset by the action, they should understand that the country was in a recession.
Roett said he believed that those who were involved in the decision-making process looked at what events were income generating and developmental events, before making the cuts.
“If you look at it, Cavalcades were a total expense. The NCF not doing the Cavalcades doesn’t mean that the private sector can’t take up the Cavalcades if they so desire and see how best they can make money out of it,” he said.
However, Roett said left to him, the Junior Soca Monarch would not have been cut from the agenda.
“I wouldn’t have cancelled that. I would have tried to hold that. It is important that we have the young people to gain experience in that style as well as the social commentary. I think that is one of the errors there. They should have tried to trim costs some where else and keep that competition,” said the producer.