As entertainers await word from Government on what this year’s Crop Over season and fetes in general are to look like, two umbrella groups representing different segments of the industry have put forward several recommendations to the National Cultural Foundation (NCF).
The recommendations were recently submitted to the NCF on what they believe future events could possibly look like, the entertainment bodies told a panel discussion.
The development comes amid an industry call for greater unity to aid in their representation efforts and uncertainty over what role vaccination against the COVID-19 virus will play in the hosting of entertainment functions.
Three key associations represent various segments of the entertainment industry: the Entertainment Association of Barbados (EAB), the Barbados Association of Calypsonians and Artists (BACA) and the Barbados Association of Event Professionals (BAEP).
During an open online discussion on The State of the Events Industry, officials agreed that it was about time all of the entertainment industry associations “come together” to improve the standards in the industry and better lobby “for the things we want going in the future”.
Music publisher Derek Wilkie said there was a need for a clear plan and “a unified objective to present to government on kick-starting the entertainment industry for when it does come and we can do it”.
“I don’t think it is a good idea for BACA and then BAEP and other associations to go to Government. We need to have a unified approach because otherwise, you appear fragmented and not structured,” he said.
But the EAB’s Public Relations Officer Ruel Ward explained that the various associations represented different aspects of the industry and they would engage in regular discussions with each other.
He disclosed that EAB and BACA have already submitted documentation to the NCF “in terms of concept notes of how we see Crop Over going forward”.
“Obviously, safety is first. We have to rely on the health officials to see if we will get what they will allow in terms of gatherings,” he said, while opting not to disclose what the recommendations were, but indicated that representatives were expecting a meeting with NCF officials in coming weeks.
Minister of Culture John King has already put entertainers on notice that after no festival last year, there will be some form of Crop Over celebrations this year with significant changes, but the details are yet to be worked out.
Ward said while everyone remained in a wait-and-see mode, he was convinced that any tangible revival of the entertainment industry must begin with a Crop Over festival, which is said to rake in upwards of $100 million annually.
Ward said he was concerned that Barbados may not achieve herd immunity against the COVID-19 virus in time for a Crop Over celebration, which usually runs from around mid-June to the first Monday in August.
“So I am really concerned about what will really happen and what health would allow in terms of gatherings,” the EAB spokesman said. “But all the associations have made some suggestions to the NCF. We cannot remain frozen. I am really hopeful that within the coming months there is a further decrease in cases and there would be some sort of resumption of the industry.”
Veteran musical artist Terencia TC Coward said she believed events will depend heavily on the roll-out of the vaccination, adding that even if a huge space such as the Botanical Gardens was chosen for events, there were still some concerns.
“If the government says yes and the Ministry of Health and Wellness determine ‘we are capping audiences at 300 people’, who is going to be in that audience, is that audience only going to be for people who are vaccinated?” she said, adding that “some level of balance” between virtual and physical had to be struck.
Coward also called for “one unified voice” to represent the industry and “have the process so airtight that when the Ministry of Finance starts to poke [a] hole in it can withstand the test”.
BAEP president Dwayne Best gave the assurance that despite several associations, the industry was moving forward “in one group”, adding that they would constantly communicate with each other.
He added: “So hopefully out of that we will get some kind of feedback from the NCF as soon as humanly possible. With regards to when things are happening for Crop Over and for the service providers, we don’t know when the call is going to come, so we are at the mercy of the Government at this point.”