Chief executive officer of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) Carol Roberts is vehemently refuting suggestions that vendors are being excluded from this year’s Crop Over plans.
She was responding to criticism from former
Member of Parliament and radio personality Mark Williams, who accused the NCF, bandleaders and other key stakeholders of selfishly excluding vendors in the rollout of new routes for the Kadooment Day and Foreday Morning jams.
The Alliance Owners of Public Transport (AOPT) has also called on authorities to meet with public service vehicle and taxi operators who will be relying heavily on the festival to make up for thousands of dollars in losses with the absence of cruise ships over the summer.
Williams took to VOB’s Down-to-Brass Tacks radio programme earlier this week, expressing concern that with Kadooment now moving from Warrens to the National Stadium and two Foreday Morning jumps leaving King George V Memorial Park in St Philip and Searle’s, Christ Church, no provisions had been made for vending.
“I am challenging the NCF, I don’t care who will be vexed with me, I don’t care if the band leaders are going to be angry with me. I am saying you are selfish,” said Williams.
“You have neglected one of the components of Crop Over and that is the vendor. You’ve stopped the vendor from making a dollar because a bottle of ice water would sell, a cold drink would sell, and if you pull that back from the vendor, then you have a problem,” he added.
But the NCF CEO took to the same radio programme to dismiss the “erroneous” allegations, declaring that vendors would “most definitely” be included.
In fact, she said stakeholders had already started identifying spaces for vendors on each of the routes to ply their trades, but discussions had to be completed.
“There never was and never will be any iteration of the Crop Over festival in 2022 that does not include vendors. As a matter of fact, we have driven the routes, both for Foreday Morning and for Grand Kadooment, with members of the Barbados Police Service and the band leaders, and the Foreday Morning band collective and we have actually begun to identify areas where vending can be adequately, reasonably and responsibly accommodated on these routes,” the NCF executive declared.
She denied suggestions that the NCF was late on Crop Over preparations, noting that in 2019, they went public with plans for vendors on May 20.
“Today is the 13th of May, so it is not as though we are late with issuing information on vending. As a matter of fact, we are pretty much on par with 2019,” said Roberts.
“But, of course, we’ve got a lot more background work to do to ensure that vending can be carried out in the best interest of the vendors and the public at large.
“I understand the nostalgia and I understand the healthiness of being able to vent and to comment and critique the National Cultural Foundation and we are certainly not above being criticised and asked to account for and to be called to account,” she added.
Meanwhile, the AOPT chairman Roy Raphael said the organisation had been trying in vain to meet with the Ministry of Culture about providing transportation for Crop Over events.
“Often during Crop Over, our minibuses sometimes get reported for being off route and we don’t want this to happen this time around,” Raphael told Barbados TODAY.
“We want to sit with the Ministry and other relevant officials to work out a plan for those persons who are interested. Transport Board buses can usually go off route because they are involved in discussions with the NCF. We aren’t, so to make sure that the playing field is level, we want to start having discussions very early,” he added.
Raphael said the return of the festival was particularly important because cruise ships were not expected to call at the Bridgetown Port for the next six months.
“Crop Over is very critical for us. We always look forward to Crop Over; we usually see a slight increase in ridership because there would be more visitors coming to Barbados, more people catching taxis, more people catching minibuses and more people hiring hired cars. It is very important to us and we look forward to taking part,” he added.