The threat hanging over this year’s Grand Kadooment has been lifted.
Bandleaders, who have been threatening to disrupt the grand finale of Crop Over, are getting their wish, at least in part.
Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley this afternoon announced that the Barbados Association of Masqueraders’ (BAM) would receive a $50,000 increase in subvention, and will vie for $30,000 more in prize money.
BAM President Chetwyn Stewart recently put the country on notice that there would be protest action on Kadooment Day if several issues facing bandleaders were not addressed urgently by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), the Government agency responsible for producing the national festival.
BAM had said the bandleaders were “at the end of their tether” after years of promises and no action, vowing that there would be “some unusual and unexpected addition to the parade” because this seemed to be the only course to get the full attention of, and action from, the authorities.
They had been complaining of declining sponsorship and had demanded $100,000 subvention, money the NCF said it simply could not afford since it too had budgetary issues “and could also likely be a casualty of the reduction of sponsorship across the board”.
However, following a meeting today with BAM officials, Lashley announced he would find the funds to grant the masqueraders a lot of what they wanted.
“I believe the masqueraders in terms of what they have put on the table and what they have requested are reasonable. I also agree with them that in a festival that has generated consistently in excess of $50 million, that we should be ensuring that the stakeholders in the festival believe and actually receive the kind of encouragement that is needed for them to do what they have to do to make the festival what it is.
“So I can tell you as the minister with responsibility for the NCF who deals with Crop Over, I fully agree with what the masqueraders have put to me. All of them, especially the stalwarts, have done yeomen service to Barbados,” Lashley said.
Stewart had complained in the past that Government, which is struggling under the weight of a massive debt, a widening fiscal deficit and dangerously low foreign reserves, was able to find money for virtually everything, including $7 million for last year’s 50th anniversary of Independence celebrations and another $6 million for CARIFESTA this year, yet it could not find a few thousand dollars for the festival that pumps an estimated $110 million into the economy.
Lashley said the increase was a one-time deal, but the submissions made to the NCF would be passed on to Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler in time for next year’s Estimates.
“We have to certainly approach the Minister of Finance in the next Estimates to present some additional information in relation to some of the requirements that have now become obvious in relation to producing Crop Over, that we cannot run away from. The festival requires allocation of resources for it to be the kind of global festival that it is,” Lashley said.
The minister also promised to address some of the other issues raised by BAM, including the Cultural Industries Development Act, which was designed to alleviate several of the masqueraders’ concerns, including the importation of the inputs for costumes.
Meantime, Stewart, who also attended the meeting, said he would have liked a bigger subvention, but was pleased with the progress made by the two sides.
“Of course we are not satisfied, but we are happy with the step in the right direction . . . . The whole thing with us coming forward is the challenges the bandleaders are having. There’re a number for other things that need to be looked at. We had asked earlier this year for a 100 per cent increase, which we thought was reasonable. We didn’t expect to get it because we know there are challenges . . . for the Government to find money, but we are saying there’re ways to get around that.
“Even like this meeting, it probably wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t get out to the press and stated our concerns, but its necessary to do that sometimes,” Stewart explained.
He said the association needed to push for more attention to be paid to Crop Over, adding that his statements about the amount spent on last year’s independence celebrations and the monies being spent on CARIFESTA, did not suggest that those events ought not be held, rather, “we are just saying if you have a festival that’s generating $110 million dollars in the economy, why should the NCF be going out there fighting to get 2.5 million dollars in sponsorship?”
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
It is estimated that it costs the agency between $5 million and $6 million to run the annual three-month Crop Over festival.