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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Mas back in Savannah

Flashback: Harts revellers play mas in Port-of-Spain this year.
After some three years of being out on the streets, described by some as a horrible experience, bandleaders will see a return of mas to the big stage at the Queen’s Park Savannah for Carnival 2011. Minister of Art and Multiculturalism Winston “Gypsy” Peters made the announcement yesterday as he checked out existing structures at the Savannah to see what improvements could be done. “This tour is just to take a look at what we’re supposed to do to bring Carnival plans to fruition for 2011. “We’re putting Carnival back in the Savannah,” Peters said.
The Parade of the Bands was moved from the Savannah some three years ago by the former PNM administration for the construction of the National Carnival Centre, which is still to be completed. Masqueraders were made to pass along judging points on the street outside the Savannah. Accompanying Peters was Kenny de Silva, who has returned as chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), and other board members. “This structure is not what we would like,” Peters said, referring to the Grand Stand. He said the plan was to move the Grand Stand further east in line with the North Stand and to establish an active, year-round Carnival “place” in the Savannah for tourism purposes.
Peters said culture should be one of T&T’s main revenue earners in the diversification thrust. He said masqueraders, bandleaders and calypsonians were elated about the return of mas to the big stage in the Savannah. He dismissed questions about the headache of masqueraders having to wait for hours to cross the stage. “Carnival without bacchanal is no Carnival. However, we’re working on plans to alleviate the problem,” he said.

People’s band
One of the ministry’s plans is to bring out a “people’s band” where the People’s Partnership Government will provide music trucks and “anybody could bring their costume and come,” Peters disclosed. The aim is to draw away some of the Savannah masqueraders and decrease the crowd there. “People will go to that (the people’s band),” Peters said. “I hope to see the return of antique costumes and creativity. There are no restrictions. If you are unemployed, make a mas face and come.” Peters also dismissed questions about taking away sales from mas designers.
“That’s not my concern,” he said, frankly. “They are bringing mas from India and China and I don’t know if they are taking away jobs from the people and suppressing their creativity.” Asked the cost of the exercise to beautify the Carnival “place” in the Savannah, the minister replied: “Whatever it takes for us to be here. “I’m not saying we’re sparing no cost. The whole country is under financial constraints but Carnival is also a business.” De Silva said his passion was Carnival management and said the NCC board held its first meeting on the site yesterday afternoon. A Ministry of Works engineering team and an architect also were supposed to visit the area to begin preparations, De Silva said. “I’m looking forward to coming up to everybody’s expectations,” he said.

Mas men respond
Luis Hart, of the band Harts, said he was “ecstatic” about the return of mas to the Savannah. “It’s what we were begging for. Masqueraders missed the thrill of crossing the stage.” He said being on the street was horrible. “They’re putting Carnival back where it’s supposed to be,” he said. Dean Ackin, of Tribe, said masqueraders would be happy about the move. “My only concern is managing the flow of bands to the Savannah.” Ackin said the National Carnival Bandleaders Association (NCBA) had been meeting this year with stakeholders, including bandleaders, to come up with a plan to ease the masquerader backlog. “They have some good plans which they suggested to the NCC. I’m looking forward to this year.” Dane Lewis, of Island People, said moving mas back to the Savannah would give masqueraders the “climax” they had been missing on the street. “The big stage provides that climax experience we have been missing for the past three years,” Lewis said.
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