The grand finale of Barbados’ premier festival is in trouble and could attract fewer bands and masqueraders this year, the organization representing bandleaders is warning.
The Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) said declining sponsorship could force bandleaders to either eliminate some sections or withdraw altogether from Grand Kadooment this year, following a drop of 600 revellers last year when compared to 2015.
“The quality and the standard of the mas might be going up but we are getting less people going on the road and that is a big thing come [this year], and what we don’t recognize is that there could be a lot less bands on the road [this year]. The actual Grand Kadooment is in trouble,” BAM President Chetwyn Stewart told Barbados TODAY.
“And I will not be bringing a band too if I don’t get some kind of support,” he added without saying how many band owners were thinking of cutting back or pulling out.
So concerned is the association that it has written to the state organizer of the Crop Over festival The National Cultural Foundation (NCF), and copied Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley, requesting a meeting in an effort to avert a major problem.
According to BAM, the root of the problem is inadequate Government funding of Crop Over, resulting in the NCF having to compete with band owners for sponsorship.
And with the NCF able to offer sponsors more for their money, the bands get the short end of the stick.
“The NCF is in charge of the final day of the festival but the NCF . . . are like us; they go out there fighting to get sponsorship because they don’t get enough money from the Government to run the festival,” Stewart said.
Based on the 2016-2017 Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth received $50.77 million, $6.258 million of which went to the NCF.
It is estimated that it costs the agency between $5 million and $6 million to run the annual three-month Crop Over festival.
And with the event said to be generating over $110 million annually, Stewart recommended that by adequately funding Crop Over, Government would help both the NCF and bandleaders, while boosting the economy.
Stressing that he understood the NCF’s economic plight, the BAM head said the ball was in Government’s court to decide if it would pump more funds into the festival or watch bands leave.
“It is not just the bands; I am sure the tents and everybody will be saying that they need more assistance. So you have to look at the bigger picture. It is a festival that is benefiting the whole of the economy, so we have to start taking it a lot more serious as far as I am concerned,” Stewart said.
Meantime, Lashley told Barbados TODAY he took all issues raised by stakeholders seriously and he was willing to have cordial discussions with BAM with a view to reaching a workable solution.
“Once the issues are raised then we will do what we always do every year – sit, have a discussion with a view to resolution,” Lashley had said before receiving the letter.
Having since received the correspondence, Lashley has asked his Permanent Secretary to gather the necessary information so a date could be set for the meeting. [email protected]