BitDepth 614 - February 12

Carnival thrives in spite of the worst efforts of those charged with its commissioning.
This Carnival is broken

A masquerader and onlooker await the start of the Parade of Traditional Characters at Piccadilly Greens on Carnival Sunday morning. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

In spite of the grand declarations of success that those charged with the production of Carnival will offer, I have an overwhelming sense that Carnival as a festival is fundamentally broken.
This wasn't a sudden shattering that followed on the closure and subsequent destruction of the Grandstand. It's the result of the torturous bending and twisting that the festival has been through over the last decade and to the casual observer; the cracks don't show because of the enthusiasm that the people who genuinely love this celebration invest in it.

The understanding that a number of presumptions we have about Carnival are essentially wrong could not come at a better time. The presentation of the annual festival may well have benefited from the ineptitude of its managers, which have resulted in it rising above the indignities that have been heaped on it over the last two years.

The exploration of new venues, the Jean Pierre Complex, Skinner Park, a hastily rebuilt facsimile of the Grandstand and that amorphous space that's constantly referred to as "The Road," have made it clear that the spirit that drives Carnival will happily defy any attempt to wrap it in committee spun bureaucracy.
But the very flexibility that allows the elements of Carnival to bend and twist in the breezes of wanton government intervention also make it difficult for the "stakeholders" of the festival to arrive at useful consensus and take decisive action.

Change as opportunity, not relocation
The move of Panorama to San Fernando turned out to be a grand opportunity that has largely been wasted. On spacious grounds with bountiful opportunities for inventive presentation and the exploration of new staging ideas, we had the essential principle of the Grandstand replicated. With no strategy for parking cars lined the streets to await the ministrations of thieves still to realise just how thinly the police were distributed.
The services long assigned to the capable duo of Grandstand and North Stand have been moved a few hundred yards south for the parade of the bands and perfunctorily rebuilt, with none of the gritty charm of the original, for the competitions leading up to Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

Those facilities proved adequate, if uninspiring for the Dimanche Gras show and thunderous minutes of fireworks, six-foot pillars of multi-hued flame and continuous showers of confetti couldn't help but remind of the equally impressive clouds of money that had been blown into the air for the show's production and the celebrations as a whole in the hope that they might fall on fertile ground.

While money remains a blizzard of opportunity, here's a notion. Let's rethink Carnival Monday, easily the most shattered of the festival's traditions. 
I watched with some astonishment on Monday afternoon as a bandleader described the qualities of a section called "Liquid Gold" to the television audience, who it seemed, were expected to see something other than people in shorts and t-shirts chipping along.

Start with Carnival Monday
It's time to acknowledge some brutal truths about the first day of mas on the streets and foremost among them is that no major costumed band will risk its costumes to a half-day's parade. But many small bands, individuals and other performers normally lost on Carnival Tuesday are roaming around.
So let's turn Monday into a day of regional Carnival, traditional characters and experimental work and create another scenic route for the big bands to have their party on the road.

How do we do this? 
Encourage the participation of artists, writers and directors in Carnival, possibly in concert with schools, performing groups and communities interested in evolving old traditions and creating new ones.
To stimulate regional mas on Monday, put cameras in place to observe what's happening. On the days of Carnival, NCCTV and CNMG were both carrying essentially the same feed of the same patch of asphalt.

The mas goes where the cameras are, both on the macro and micro scale. The lens lovers who gyrate for the camera are only the most visible manifestation of the tendency for masqueraders to flock toward the source of transmission.
Control the cameras sensibly and you can put Carnival wherever you want. 
Until that realisation sinks in, every effort and expenditure on regional Carnivals will be wasted, because Carnival is both masquerader and audience.

More medication for mas
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