Reinventing Carnival

Reinventing CarnivalKayode O’Mard blows in like a breath of fresh air, bringing new perspectives to what has become a hidebound tradition – Antigua Carnival as it has always been, almost from inception to the present day.

Talk about bringing the festival forward into a new era has also become a traditional feature of the carnival culture. Year after year the public – the market at which the activities are directed – express their growing dissatisfaction with various trends of things. Year after year, the combined effects of a staggering world economy, high regional air travel costs, and growing competition from neighbouring islands cut into the marketing appeal of a jaded attraction.

The new chair of the Carnival Development Committee (CDC) – reappointed in the traditional manner scant months before the summer festival is scheduled to kick off – is full of ideas about re-designing, re-tooling, and re-directing the Caribbean’s “Greatest Summer Festival”. His problem is that the timing of his mandate denies him and the new CDC complement the opportunity to experiment with even the smallest deviation from the time-honoured schedule of events. The result is that the carnival remains locked inside a box designed to fit the needs of the 1960’s.

From a certain perspective, this tradition of late appointment of a CDC chair cannot be a good thing. The practice practically guarantees that the new Carnival committee, with its less-than-one-year life span, is denied the opportunity to implement even minor innovations in managing the festival. In the meantime, the event, like Topsy, is growing ever more cumbersome with the passage of time, economic development, and changing trends.

From quite another point of view though, the whole inefficient process – predictable as it has become – may also have a negatively beneficial effect: that of protecting the festival against the damage caused by the reckless adventures of CDC chairs and ministers of Carnival who have traditionally shown more enthusiasm than judgment.

One of the more noticeable side effects of the media freedom that Antigua & Barbuda has enjoyed since the advent of Observer Radio in 2001 is a recurring call for national consultations on the way forward for the nation’s signature cultural festival. The cry is heard during the months prior to and following the carnival. Traditionally, everyone agrees that national consultations are absolutely necessary – and sober pledges are made that such an event will be staged at the earliest opportunity. The matter is then completely forgotten, shelved, placed on the back burner and consigned to the dustbin of history – until next year, possibly in Jerusalem.

While this is going on (or perhaps more correctly not going on) a bemused public has traditionally been made the target of random and sporadic proposals and suggestions scattered in all directions by ministers of Carnival in particular. Historians of Carnival may in the future mark the beginning of the decline and fall of Antigua Carnival by the appointment of the first minister with responsibility for Carnival. This marriage of culture with political interest meant that the carnival now became a matter of political ambition – and from that point on, the historians may say, the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival became a plaything for politicians and their cronies.

In one fell swoop, after an initial appointment that can only be characterized as “last-minute,” a rookie CDC chair has quietly exposed a lifetime of management inefficiency, fiscal indiscipline, and cronyism. In one brief stint as 2012 CDC chair, Kayode O’Mard showed how a carnival festival might be staged within a reasonable budget, if only basic fiduciary procedures were followed. The startling fiscal performance of the O’Mard management style might have opened the eyes of the political directorate to the structural weaknesses inherent in the old ways of doing things. The achievement has also alerted a watching public to the huge amounts of public finance that have flowed down the open maw of the CDC crony corruption machine over the years.

Perhaps this signal achievement is the factor that gives the new CDC chair – once more appointed in a last-minute move – the credibility to suggest far-reaching changes in the way the entire Carnival festival is arranged, even though there is no possibility of anything he says being implemented in a hurry. The best thing about Kayode O’Mard’s approach to reinventing carnival is that he does subscribe to the absolute need for national consultations to redefine the festival, and to reposition Antigua Carnival in a whole new 21st century environment.

Hopefully, then, immediately after the conclusion of our 2013 summer festival, the waiting public will hear the CDC chair send out a ringing call for the staging of urgent public consultations on all aspects of restructuring Antigua Carnival as a prime event on the Regional and International calendar. This may be a vain hope, since even as the full 2012 CDC complement is reappointed for 2013 the post-mortem and audited accounts on last year’s carnival festivities remain in limbo.

Perhaps the handiest solution to that little problem might be to simply not wait for the completion of the 2013 post mortem and audited accounts. It may well be in the best interests of all concerned to just damn the torpedoes and proceed full steam ahead with national consultations on a new-look, freshly-focused festival. The objective of the exercise should be to craft a cultural framework that draws its cultural resources from activities held throughout the year – all leading up to a “carnival season” that spans the period from the beginning of May and reaches a climax during that hallowed week-and-a-half that surrounds Emancipation Day.

A mountain of spadework will need to be done to achieve that result, and the entire process will not be completed in a single year. However, in this period of economic privation when financial realities at last trump political preferences, Kayode O’Mard has broken the carnival mold and lived to tell the tale. In one stroke, the new CDC chair has demonstrated that the Caribbean’s Greatest Summer Festival is affordable.

With a few bold proposals – still subject to due diligence – a picture has been painted of what a future carnival might look like. The next national order of Carnival business must therefore be begin the process of re-inventing the nation’s signature cultural  festival.

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5 Comments In This Article   


How I know it to be..

#5 Dadli man » 2013-04-30 12:35

I'm not here to defend anyone but from the best of my knowledge last year was not the first year Tian has been around, before we make accusations we should first be fair, from memory its been a few years since Tian/CP/Tizzy has been headlining pre-parties in Anu, and if my facts are right Kayode has been chairman for only 2 years, so the suggestion that Tian's exposure is as a result of him being chair is a bit unfair, 2nd its not the Job of the Carnival Chairman to get involved in the operations of people's private functions, if an artist has a manager then the manager handles those issues, it is not the place for the Chairman of Carnival (acting in that capacity) to be pushing artists if I'm not mistaken it has always been that way, I too was a bit disappointed on the lack of exposure hard Knaxx received but thats the fault of both the his management team and the promoters not considering him, what I blame Kayode for is what happened on T-shirt Parade day when Hard Knaxx didn't even get on a float for himself but to blame everything on O'Mard is a bit unfair, I know he's Tian's manager so when it comes to that he's doing what he's always done for Tian

Dadli man


#4 Common Cents » 2013-04-30 09:22

I'm not sure how you can blame the CDC manager last year's "reigning monarch" for not getting shows.

If my memory suits me correctly, Burning Flames/Red Hott Flames have many gigs EVERY YEAR, but have not won any soca monarch show in years.
Tizzy gets shows EVERY YEAR but hasn't won any soca monarch shows.

Obviously, the onus is on the MANAGEMENT of Hard Knaxx to present a product that promoters believe the people are interested in seeing. Even with a win, you can't simply expect that everything will fall into your lap, and be upset when it doesn't.

Common Cents

Here's the truth

#3 Common Cents » 2013-04-30 09:19

Want to fix carnival?
The over spending?
The fiscal imbalance?

None of these things are IMPOSSIBLE.

It is the simple, blinding fact that these things are not properly addressed because the politicians DON'T WANT TO FIX THEM.

There are several reasons.

But at the end of the day, they know that they can get away with having a broken carnival, because there is no one to hold their feet to the fire.
No head honcho is fired because of years of carnival overspending and wastage.

It just so happens that this time a genuinely competent, intelligent and well meaning young person has the reigns of carnival.

Pretty soon, he's going to "stir up too much ants" and get fired.

Then we return to the status quo.

Common Cents

Fresh new Bold on every front

#2 Skyewill » 2013-04-30 07:50

Antigua needs a make over. Different is the order of the day. All the money that Antigua needs and more is already in Antigua If the so-called leaders would stop putting it in their pockets and Kayode O’Mard will prove it.


Tian alone shouldn't benefit

#1 Banker » 2013-04-30 07:36

Kudos to Kayode for bringing a fresh perspective, what he needs to bring now is a FAIR perspective. One where as Chairman he doesn't look out for Tian alone and securing jobs for him, but use his influence to ensure others are given fair exposure. It was a shame last year when he sat quietly by and watch the reigning party monarch now get one pre carnival gig. I lost respect for him after that.
This is a new year, so won't say more than just be fair. Tian should not be the only artist benefiting cause his manager is Chairman of Carnival.


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Mr. Colin Sampson

 Mr. Colin Sampson is a Journalist and the host of "The Colin Sampson Show" on Caribantigua TV 



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