Summer's Biggest Costival

Antigua carnival queenAs is customary, very soon there will be a report outlining just how much money the Summer's Biggest Festival cost the taxpayers of this country. Each year, the cost to host this event gets higher and higher.

Notwithstanding the amount of money spent, there seems to be a deficit at the end of the day. Bills are left unpaid from year to year. Why?

It has been my contention that Carnival, as well as Sailing Week, are two events that should be profitable rather than financial burdens. Before anyone takes this and runs with it, these two events have been costing taxpayers money for a very long time. It did not start yesterday.

I can remember having this conversation way back when Bernard Percival was chairman. We were at St Joseph’s Academy getting ready for a cricket game when the topic was raised. Percival chastised me for making such a foolish statement about Carnival becoming a financial success.

I am still of the view, and notwithstanding the beliefs of Percival and many others - including those who are in control today, that if done properly, Carnival can turn a profit.

One of the reasons Carnival continues to be a burden is the same reason many Antiguan professionals living overseas do not return to contribute to nation building.

Here it is: There are many people stuck in the same failed positions for numerous years, and because of political affiliations, they are fixed to those positions. These same individuals will tell anyone, no matter his or her expertise, that "nobody can move me," and rightly so.

Similarly, these people will object to change even if the change is for the better. So here we are again; one of the main reasons Carnival does not turn a profit is due to political influence. The persons who have the ability to make it work are usually sidelined because of "friend and company". So where I am going with this one?

Well, frankly, when I say that Carnival can turn a profit, I mean profit for the country. I am of the view that many people "back up their trucks" and fill it with cash during Carnival. The festival turns a profit for certain individuals. We need to turn this around for the benefit of the nation.

Here we go. Let’s take a good look at what running Carnival entails. First off the bat, most of the people involved in this event do so as volunteers. Perhaps more than 80 percent of those who work to make Carnival happen are not paid.

Most of the shows during Carnival are sponsored events. Let’s take a closer look at sponsorship.

Take the Queen of Carnival for example, who over the years has taken home a sponsored car for her top prize. Trips overseas, as well as other sponsored gifts, are not unusual for the Queen. Most of the other shows are similar in their makeup in terms of sponsorship.

Antigua & Barbuda has been celebrating Carnival for over 50 years. This suggests longevity, and should not be looked upon as merely an event; this is an institution. To be a part of Carnival should not be as simple as placing a few dollars and being called a sponsor.

Now I am not in any way comparing Carnival to World Cup Cricket or the American Super Bowl, but the concepts are similar as it pertains to sponsorship. Surely, because of the international media, the above mentioned events draw perhaps billions in advertisement.

Now I am not nitpicking any sponsor, but this topic came up even prior to Carnival 2010. The idea of Kennedy’s Club being a title sponsor for Carnival, and that only Wadadli Beer should be sold during the event. Now I am not opposed to title sponsorship, but I am yet to see the profit of such a deal.

Since Carnival belongs to the people, I believe the Carnival committee is duty bound to tell the nation what Kennedy’s Club paid for such a partnership. To be title sponsor of a 50-plus year event is "big bucks".

If Kennedy’s does pay the applicable rate, then the Carnival committee is again duty bound to ensure that no other beer, or drinks for that matter, are sold during that event. This should include not just the bars on the grounds, but rather those bars at the back of the stands as well.

Since the idea of Carnival was about the involvement of all, with the financial trickle-down effect being important, I can understand limiting the "title" sponsorship somewhat. The idea still stands though, that having title on such an event has to be a carefully crafted and well sorted out proposal.

Years ago, when Stanford had title of Antigua Sailing Week, I objected on a number of grounds, including the price paid for such entitlement. At the time, Sailing Week was 40 years running and was recognized as one of the top five regattas in the world.

While Kennedy’s Club and those other local sponsors are well suited to sponsor Carnival events, I think we must look at international sponsorship. Some smirked at such a statement, but Rolex did sponsor Antigua Sailing Week and currently Panarai is the sponsor of the Classic Yacht Regatta. So where would we get international sponsorship?

Well, the last time I looked, Antiguans drink Coca Cola, Chivas Regal and many other international brands of drinks. We wear Nike, Pumas, Adidas and all manner of brands of shoes. It is not unthinkable to have these sponsors, especially at a time when the internet offers so much opportunity to market this event.

A police department in one part of the United States is using Facebook to catch traffic violators. The point is the internet, used properly, could allow us to showcase Antigua & Barbuda’s Carnival to the world, giving rise to international sponsorship.

This again will require a well sorted out and deliberate plan of action, geared at reaping the biggest benefit. While the Carnival committee may be charged with responsibility for Carnival, most other departments must play a helping hand to make it profitable.

For one, the Ministry of Information should make sure that the internet providers have the relevant megabytes so that persons overseas can view the shows without much interruption. The ministries of tourism and security also have huge roles to play to ensure the success of this major event. The planning of Carnival 2011 should have started before the start of Carnival 2010.

It makes absolutely no sense to start planning Carnival just a few months before the event. One year minimum is acceptable for the planning of this event. Obviously, those entrusted with the collection of money for the Carnival activities must be honest individuals. There must be a system in place to make sure that most, if not all monies are accounted for. There has to be a limitation on complimentary tickets.

I would like at this time to critique two of the major players during Carnival - the calypsonians and the mas camps. Many calypsonians are of the view that the Carnival committee owes them to produce their CD’s. It’s time that these calypsonians recognize that they are artists and should act as such.

In terms of Carnival, they need two songs to enter the competition, they don’t need the production of a CD. If the CD is successful, it’s the artist who reaps the profits, not the Carnival Committee.

The mas camps make their costumes and charge persons to play mas. That to me is a business venture. The owners of these mas camps must evaluate their business plans to make sure they can be profitable. If they are not, then they may be doing something wrong.

These are just some of the ways that if taken into consideration we can see immediate profits from the hosting of Carnival.

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6 Comments In This Article   


another thought about the calypso artists

#6 human » 2010-08-05 11:20

There are also other more creative solutions to the issue of producing CDs. Perhaps the CDC can make studio time available to the artists for producing the CDs. Perhaps there is a studio out there that could become a sponsor for the show, or sponsor the studio time. Also, perhaps the band(s) that play during the calypso shows could be used for the studio time.

Then there was the idea of who reaps the profits of the CDs. If you're talking about a situation where the CDC needs to make a profit, why not simply suggest that the CDC get some return on their investment, as it pertains to their footing the bill for producing the CDs? This seems like an obvious solution. Instead of leaving a void with the artists, and trying the rather simplistic route of "making" money by not spending it, we can have a situation where the CDC recoups their money AND progresses the music at the same time. Why not make the CDs readily and conspicuously available for sale during the show? I know of at least one couple who spoke so glowingly about some of the artists, I can't see how they wouldn't have bought their CDs were they readily available.



#5 human » 2010-08-05 11:10

For one, the Ministry of Information should make sure that the internet providers have the relevant megabytes so that persons overseas can view the shows without much interruption.

I believe the appropriate terminology you were looking for is "bandwidth", as in the Ministry should "ensure that internet providers have sufficient bandwidth to be able to handle the traffic" of a live feed of the shows. "Relevant megabytes" doesn't really make any sense in that context.


calypso artists

#4 human » 2010-08-05 11:06

Many calypsonians are of the view that the Carnival committee owes them to produce their CD’s. It’s time that these calypsonians recognize that they are artists and should act as such. In terms of Carnival, they need two songs to enter the competition, they don’t need the production of a CD.

While I agree with the general thought pattern of the article, I disagree with the comments on the artists. Without them, a major part of Carnival -- the calypsos -- would be defunct. No one wants to see the culture of calypso die. The suggestion that they put 2 songs out & do nothing more to advance the music is pretty short-sighted. The problem with our indigenous music is that we don't have *enough* support from gov't; it certainly isn't that they have too much support.

Producing a CD is a big expense to heap on an individual. Without a suggestion on how to foot the bill, I don't see how one can just dismissively throw the onus back on the artist. Flip over to the back of any soca CD, and you'll see the endless list of sponsors. The discussion on the calypso artists & their CDs needs more investigation and print than given here.


Great Article

#3 Educated National » 2010-08-05 03:31

Carnival has been running for FIFTY YEARS and has not yet managed to turn a profit. We have sponsors who sponsor MOST of the prizes, IN ADDITION to charging fees at the gate.

Why can we not turn a profit if we have MOST of the expenses paid for by the sponsors and thousands of people coming to several of the events?

There is obviously something wrong here. Obviously somebody is getting a bigger slice of the pie than they deserve, because Carnival shows make a LOT of money, yet every year it seems to be going down the drain. There should be money from gate receipts, money from vendors who have to get liscenses and permits to ply their trade in carnival city, money from sponsors.

Every month other music events are hosted that make money. Why can't carnival events do the same?

Someone needs to take the CDC to task about what is really going on with our carnival

Educated National

Mr Hughes

#2 Uni » 2010-08-04 23:20

Mr Hughes, you mentioned about the various sponsorships to carnival and the posibility of attracting inernational sponsors to this event, however i do not believe that the problem lies in the sponsorship. I am of the opinion that misappropriation has a great deal to do with the losses that we hear of each year. Personally i would like to see the Income and Expenditure account for carnival because i find it very hard to believe that carnival with its various shows and events which attracts tens of thousands of Antiguans and Barbudans and even International guest cannot turn over a profit or break even. But i would not expect any better with the political parties we have here in this country that all about self and what is in it for them.



#1 PATRIOT » 2010-08-04 22:13

Magic, you are so right... I to share the same conviction that local events especially Carnival should turn profits.... but because of the lacking management and leadership skills running these events.... you tend to find we as tax payers continue to get the dutty end of the stick..... What you find instead is businesses who are hired and operate especially those who rent equipment to the committee ride way with tons of cash for the event.... e.g. every year cdc pays to build a stage in ARG...(money) every year cdc pays to rent them multimedia scenes (money)... every year cdc pays to rent a sound system (money).. every year cdc pays to rent chairs (money) ... Do we not see a trend here!!! many of the things which the cdc should have as **ts from years of running Carnival are managed just like government contracts given out at sweet deal paycheques to those lucky enough to know a friend..... It needs to stop and we need to demand more now!!!!


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Ian 'Magic' Hughes

Ian 'Magic' Hughes is an Antiguan Journalist.

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