The Barbados Association of Masqueraders (BAM) is putting the country on notice that there will be protest action on Kadooment Day if several issues facing bandleaders are not addressed urgently by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and respective ministries.
BAM said bandleaders were “at the end of their tether” after years of promises and no action and they were promising “some unusual and unexpected addition to the parade” because this seems to be the only course to get the full attention and action of the authorities.
BAM President Chetwyn Stewart said the executive met recently and decided on a course of action “which will not look good at all”, adding that several bands, including some of the biggest and most influential such as Ooutraje Festival Band, Blue Box Cart, Baje International, Betty West, Gwyneth Squires, Power X Four – Next Generation and Wednesday 2000 had committed to the agreed action.
He said BAM approached the NCF early this year with proposals and was yet to hear back formally from either the NCF or the Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley.
Stewart said while there was progress in terms of a meeting with the Barbados Revenue Authority and a promise to continue dialogue, bandleaders were still facing the same situation as in previous years, with the added pressure of a worsening economy.
“We are being asked to come better every year, especially by our band members, and do so in circumstances where there is dwindling sponsorship, hardly a raise in subvention or prize money,” Stewart said.
“And this comes against a background of promises and the unbelievable situation of the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. spending thousands of dollars in Trinidad with entities where it was hard to see the reasoning behind it.
“We are a major part of this festival, which is bringing in more than $110 million in a short time and the Government cannot find it possible to do anything at all for us – not reduce the VAT as requested to the level of tourism players, not give us subvention increases and we are still to benefit from the Cultural Industries Act after three plus years, despite all the talk about how it would assist bands,” Stewart said.
He added that there was no way the suggestion of them bringing queens and kings of the masquerade bands would be entertained in the circumstances, explaining that the cost of a king or queen was more than $20,000 and no first prize even comes close to that input.
The BAM President further complained that Government was finding money for everything, including $7 million for last year’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations and another $6 million for CARIFESTA this year, but it could not find a few thousand dollars for the thing that is bringing millions into the country, particularly its core event, Kadooment.
Stewart warned that Kadooment Day was dying and that unless some urgent attention was paid to it and some serious support forthcoming to bandleaders, the product will continue to peter out.