While two bands have pulled out of Crop Over 2017, two veteran bandleaders say they will stick it out, no matter what.
The tough economic climate – partly impacted by an increase in the National Social Responsibility Levy (NSRL) from two per cent to ten per cent and the introduction of a two per cent tax on foreign exchange transactions – has resulted in Fantasy and Ravers pulling their bands this year.
However, Gwyneth Squires and Betty West, who have numerous Grand Kadooment awards between them, have admitted to having it rough this season, but said they will be on the road this year.
At the same time, they have appealed for whatever assistance they can get.
“I know in the weeks to come it’s going to be very hard. I’m out here still crying for a little help because we have to get drinks, food, we have to pay for security, we have to pay for sound on the road, and so on. So whatever assistance anyone can give, I would appreciate it. Every little bit helps,” West said.
She said she sympathized with the bands that had decided not to be part of the jump-up this year.
“I understand why, but my foot is very far in now so I can’t pull out. But it’s a very big challenge,” West admitted.
However, the veteran bandleader, who is celebrating her 26th year in the industry, said she would push forward. She expects costume sales to pick up as Grand Kadooment, which is 27 days away, draws closer.
“I think I’m going to have one big rush at the end. I think [people are] getting school clothes and their bills in order, then they are going to come. What I’ve done this year is guess the sizes according to my band members, because I can’t wait until the last minute to start making swimwear. You can’t take people money and don’t give them what they deserve,” West said.
She explained that she realized early how the economy was shaping up and based on that, in addition to the lack of sponsorship, she decided not to bring a Kiddies Kadooment band this time around.
“I’m still a little sad about it, especially now there is a big car to be won for best designers but you have to have both adults and kiddies.”
Regarding the increased NSRL, West said she believed she dodged a bullet by importing the majority of her materials early.
“Abeds here is the only place now. Whatever I can get at Abeds I do, but you still have to bring in some things. But you still have to be careful not to put yourself in financial trouble,” she added.
Like West, Squires also prepped early for this Crop Over in terms of bringing in her material.
“I ordered my stuff early because I sensed something would happen this year. This is 32 years that I’ve been doing this, so I always prepare ahead of time,” the veteran bandleader said.
She is also forging ahead with both Grand Kadooment and Kiddies Kadooment bands this year.
In fact, her kiddies band is already set and she is now in the process of preparing for Grand Kadooment.
“The kiddies costumes are finished I’m already giving out those costumes. Preparation for Grand Kadooment isn’t going too bad. Sales are going very nice. Two sections are sold out, and the other sections are coming along,” Squires disclosed.
However, she was not surprised that some bands had pulled out of the festival because of the tough economic times.