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Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Bands still going to Savannah

The four large mas bands which will be part of the Socadrome initiative at the Jean Pierre Complex may still head to the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, on Carnival Tuesday. When the National Carnival Commission okayed the initiative last week, it argued that the four bands — Bliss, Harts, Tribe and Yuma — would account for taking some 15,000 revellers to the Jean Pierre Complex instead, thus freeing up some of the perennial congestion caused by bands queuing up on Charlotte Street to get to the Savannah stage. However, the organisers of the Socadrome said yesterday that the bands have not totally ruled out crossing the Savannah which is seen as the ultimate goal of masqueraders. They noted, though, they would allow the bands actually competing in the Parade of the Bands competitions priority in crossing the main judging point.

In an interview yesterday, Harts bandleader Luis Hart said his band would definitely be going to the Savannah on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Harts, which is usually the first band to cross the stage on Carnival Tuesday, will take its masqueraders to the stage at around 7.30 am before heading to the alternative route and to the Socadrome, he said. “I believe the other bands (Yuma, Tribe and Bliss) will be going to the Socadrome first and will then make their way to the Savannah stage,” Hart said. “This is about convenience for the masquerader. The bands want to give the competing bands the opportunity to cross the stage and then later in the day head to the Savannah.” Organisers said yesterday the three other bands also intended to cross the Savannah stage after crossing the Socadrome stage once congestion on the route to the Savannah has decreased. “The intention is to give priority to the competing bands. The plan is to go to the Socadrome, then go back on the parade route, and if the parade is flowing, then the bands will take their masqueraders to the Savannah.” said a Tribe official.

The decision of the organisers may also be a response to negative comments from masqueraders in the wake of the announcement of the Socadrome initiative. Many of them took to social media to express their frustration at the decision and not being able to cross the Savannah stage. Many said they were not told of any such plans when they were signing up, or else they would have exercised their right to join other bands. While the public will be charged a $25 fee to enter the venue, organisers are encouraging all media to provide coverage for the event free of charge. They also said they were trying to address the concerns of Woodbrook residents. Last week, Woodbrook residents threatened protests and circulated a petition they had hoped would have stopped the NCC from okaying the plan since the bands plan to pass through their community on the way to the Jean Pierre Complex. They raised concerns over noise pollution and access to emergency services, as well as masqueraders leaving garbage in the streets and urinating on walls. It is not the first time mas bands have used streets in Woodbrook as a parade route, as both the defunct mas bands Poison and Barbarossa were known to pass though Woodbrook on Carnival Tuesday. “We have increased the number of road marshals on the road, as one of the concerns expressed by residents was access to emergency services,” a Socadrome official told the T&T Guardian yesterday.

“It usually isn’t a problem, as masqueraders are trained to pay attention when the music stops and to let vehicles pass though but we are still making attempts to address the concerns. “We want this to work and we understand that the concerns of the residents need to be addressed,” he added. The organisers, as stipulated in the contract with the management of the Jean Pierre Complex, are required to clean up all the surrounding streets near the venue within four hours of the end of the event. “We don’t want to terribly inconvenience residents. We want this to work and we are looking at all the comments and trying to address them,” it was stated. So far, organisers have received informal requests from other bands who are interested in using the 15,000-square-foot Socadrome stage as well but they said all formal requests need to go through the Sport Company of T&T. Acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams yesterday said he was satisfied that the police would have enough manpower to monitor Carnival across the country, despite the late addition of the Socadrome and alternative route for party bands. “We have called police officers off vacation leave to provide additional support and we will be given assistance by the T&T Defence Force. I am satisfied that we will effectively police Carnival 2014,”  Williams said.

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