Whatever our differing views on Crop Over, one thing we can agree on is the widespread impact of the festival at all levels of society. The music, the fetes, the shows, the tents, the competitions, indeed the very spirit of the season, all entice us to listen, sing, dance, mingle and lighten up.
Yesterday, the sweet summer festival, a rich display of our culture, climaxed with another successful staging of Grand Kadooment.
From the outset, the Royal Barbados Police Force, together with the Barbados Defence Force must be commended for ensuring the safety and well-being of Barbadians and tourists alike during the grand street parade and for their overall efforts to ensure the smooth running of events throughout the past few weeks.
There were a few unwelcomed incidents early on but efforts by the police to boost security worked. And the great Barbadian public, too, is deserving of praise for its conduct.
This year’s quality of music was generally good, though the trend toward unimaginative and lewd lyrics is worrying.
All kudos to the popular Lil Rick, Mikey and Mr Blood who ruled this season. Their victories somehow managed to escape the usual controversy surrounding the outcome of the various competitions.
This is all clearly good ground to build on and improve as we look to the future.
Indeed, even before the dust settled and revellers rubbed sore joints, vendors dismantled stalls, entertainers attempted to rest and organizers breathed a sigh of relief, there were calls for urgent changes to ensure Crop Over remains on the cutting edge of Caribbean festivals.
In the face of increasing competition from our island neighbours and further afield, there is little choice.
There can be no mistaking that the national festival is big business – think of the hotel rooms filled, the cars rented, the food sold, the outfits made, the taxis hired, and the creativity of cosmetologists and nail technicians who spruce up their clients.
And there’s much more that we underestimate.
Therefore, Barbados has to wake up to the fact that festivals like Crop Over are not merely one grand fete but an engine that can generate significant revenue for the economy.
So we need to inspect, rebrand and innovate where necessary.
We welcome a commitment from Minister of Creative Economy, Culture and Sports John King to transform the national festival.
“If you continue to do the same thing the same way forever and ever and ever it is going to become stale, it is going to become boring.
“You need that next generation of artistes; you need event planners; you need persons who just love to play mas; you need persons who have new ideas about how do we use technology better to get the word out there that the festival is,” he told a media reception on Sunday.
We couldn’t agree more. However, this transformation is not a job for the the culture ministry alone.
Crop Over needs substantial investment.
Government, even with its scarce resources, no doubt makes a significant contribution to the festival but there is always room for better management of the allotted funding.
Greater sponsorship is needed from the business community, too. We need more creative ways of fundraising to support our national festival.
By so doing we can re-boot important events like the Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch, the Junior Monarch, Bridgetown Market and others which have been attracting waning crowds.
More funding could also help to meet the persistent demands of the island’s artistes and band designers who have been persistently calling for more prize money.
It could also lead to the creation of new events that promote our culture in areas now missing from the usual fare.
A recurring issue that needs attention is the declining number of costumed revellers on the road.
President of the Barbados Association of Masqueraders Chetwyn Stewart told us that the high cost of costumes, driven in part by pricey materials, was a deterrent for would-be masqueraders.
This makes a credible case for Government to consider some incentives for the designers not only to encourage more Barbadians to get on board but to lure more visitors as well.
Our final point is perhaps the most obvious to us. If Crop Over is indeed a national festival, then it should be truly that. For too long, the people of vast sections of this island are devoid of any festivities. This should not be the case in 2019.
Let’s make next year the sweetest summer festival yet – for everybody.