One. Then five to fifteen.

Talking to Carnival students at UWI on a new media panel, I offer some perspectives on the status of the festival in this talk and explore the issues that are likely to shape its future.
The New Media panel that closed the first Mas Colloqium. Moderator Marsha Pearce, the author, Saucy Diva and Arnaldo JJ. Photograph by Kenwyn Murray.

I'd honestly thought that I'd written and said everything I could about Carnival 2014, but Kenwyn Murray's invitation to participate on a panel about Carnival, speaking mainly to the young practitioners of the next generation of designers and bandleaders, triggered some thoughts about what exists today.
This was the talk I offered as part of a panel on new media at the first Carnival Studies Mas Colloquium on Mas Aesthetics: Exploring the art of Mas at the Centre for Language and Learning at the University of the West Indies on April 10, 2014.

I have a theory about Carnival, formed entirely through observation over the past seven years that may help us to understand why the event is so poorly supported, so chaotically organized and so challenged to fulfill its potential.

I’ve distilled it down to this. One. Then five to fifteen.

What does this mean?
It’s my growing understanding that almost all of Carnival is governed by tiny groups of motivated people with a clear goal and understanding of their mission who are capable of stirring significant interest in communities around them.

It's likely to be the secret of all success in Trinidad and Tobago, our most successful creatives, athletes and authors working out of the same mindset. It’s either one person, or one person surrounded by a small supporting and engaged group or a tiny group of people with such synchronicity to their shared vision that they seem to move as one.

Crawford pounding along on lonely tracks, barefoot and driven. Strasser painstakingly crafting his famous penny. Naipaul, a bit sulkily and undeniably brilliantly, recalling the idiosyncrasies of his homeland.

I spin this out into Carnival and so many times I find the same thing among the most successful enterprises. Machel and his family unit. Bunji, Sherrif Mumbles, Fay Ann and the band. Tribe, which despite its size, boils down to a unit of family and friends of just under 15 people. The Alfreds of Couva, a small family with a big impact. Phase II, which is either Boogsie or the management team.

This confuses people. Politicians like a constituency, which leads them to do crazy things like put a free music truck on the road.
Businesses want to deal with other businesses, not something that looks like a serious bit of liming.

In the absence of any real understanding of this fundamental element of Carnival's underpinnings, what has been put place is a system of subsidy through appearance fees and an avalanche of finely sliced prizes.  Visit any long term masquerader and you'll see racks of trophies that represent that regime of funding.

This is laziness.  It's payment on delivery, not true support of the creative process.
And it is one of the factors that's undermining the very essence of the festival.
Carnival is not big.  In fact, it is very small.  It comes from passion, from love and from commitment. 

These are not good bottom line assets. They are concepts that are too fuzzy for business, too vote sparse for Government.
It's interesting that I'm telling you this at a discussion that's dedicated to new media, because social networking lubricates and leverages exactly this kind of phenomenon.

We need to stop this determined balkanization of Carnival into creative and party bands.  That didn't work with soca, and the most popular music of Carnival is the poorer for it.
We need to think about introducing more performance into party bands, and putting more organisation and process into creative presentations so that they can scale.

And that will happen when widely divergent minds finally meet to consider alternatives to the status quo. 
I've long believed that if a Minshall band was produced using Tribe's process, there would be no need for any other band.  Ever.

That will happen one to one or in little groups that merge the silo thinking that exists today into new strategies that work to mutual advantage.

One. Then five to fifteen.

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