There was little surprise from Carnival stakeholders yesterday as Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced the cancellation of Carnival 2021.
Speaking at a pre-budget forum at the Hyatt Regency in Port-of-Spain, Rowley said Carnival was the perfect breeding ground for the COVID-19 virus and could not be allowed to go on as usual.
“In 72 hours we’ll be in October and if at this time in October we are still in the throes of a pandemic, it will be madness to be talking about carnival in February. I see no future for Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago in the months ahead and today I could put everybody on notice that unless there’s some dramatic wind that will blow across us where by Christmas the pandemic would be a thing of the past Carnival in T&T in 2021 is not on,” Rowley said.
Speaking to Guardian Media shortly after the announcement, Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) president Lutalo Masimba (Brother Resistance) said calypsonians were expecting the decision. But he said as TUCO gears up to celebrate Calypso History Month in October, they had also been preparing for a socially-distanced Carnival.
“In spite of the fact that the situation has changed dramatically, we were always prepared in terms of presenting our calypso product to the world, to make sure our calypso lovers the world over have a taste of what our singers have to offer,” he said.
He said TUCO’s responsibility is ensure to that calypsoes are marketed to the world, adding virtual presentations are planned. However, he could not say whether the National Calypso Monarch would be adapted to fit the new normal.
“I cannot speak as to whether it will be the national monarch competition yet. Our organisation will ensure the world has new, better calypsoes where 2021 is concerned. We know our citizens and the world are already stressed and we need to bring the music to them.”
T&T Carnival Bands Association president Rosalind Gabriel said she too was not surprised by the announcement.
“I don’t think anyone expected Carnival to be one like we are accustomed too because of the threat of this pandemic,” she said.
However, Gabriel said in recent times there have been a number of virtual events that have set the pace T&T can follow to present Carnival 2021. She said while stakeholder consultation is needed, she believes all events can be held virtually.
“It’s a new thing, I am sure it will be made plain in a little while what could happen. Look at the cricket that just happened as an example, I believe we can film events and stream it, I am not seeing any problem with virtual events.”
She said the events can be streamed on a pay-per-view basis to ensure stakeholders can make money while promoting T&T’s culture.
Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell meanwhile said he had already spoken to several of the major stakeholders, including Masimba, Gabriel and the National Carnival Commission (NCC). He said plans are underway to present a virtual showcase of all the aspects of T&T’s Carnival but could not say how much such a venture would cost as those plans were still in the early stage.
Mas band leader Ronnie McIntosh said he had been closely following international news about COVID-19 and had made up his mind about two months ago that it was likely to be cancelled.
“Carnival has been out of our system for about two months now, we have to be realistic. We knew it wouldn’t be in February next year, I don’t want to speculate about later down in the year but this is not a surprise,” Mc Intosh said.
He said he and wife Caro will remain open-minded about participating in a virtual Carnival if they are asked too.
“We will basically follow their lead, whatever proposal they come up with and they want us to participate in, then sure we will.”
However, McIntosh said he noted the Prime Minister’s comment about J’Ouvert on Monday and wanted to make one of his own.
“I saw a lot of J’Ouvert and Carnival behaviour during the election season, so it’s unfortunate that we can’t have our J’Ouvert now but I am not mad with anyone, I understand totally.”