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Saturday, October 21, 2006

No Savannah Stage for 2007

Rumors were swirling around that construction of the new Carnival Entertainment Centre at the Queen's Park Savannah will not begin until after 2007 Carnival, giving masqueraders a lagniappe and renewing hopes that 2007 will indeed see us crossing the Savannah stage.

Taking the bull by the horns I asked one of the Directors involved in the project if there will be stage for us masqueraders at the Savannah seeing as construction has yet to begin. He replied convincingly that they were awaiting bids for new contractors and as soon as that was in place construction will begin and there will be no stage for Carnival 2007. I read today that it is true; the Newsday has reported that the Minister of Culture, Joan Yuille Williams has indicated that construction of the Carnival Entertainment Centre will begin before year's end:

Carnival Centre coming

Clint Chan Tack Friday, October 20 2006

CULTURE and Community Development Minister Joan Yuille-Williams yesterday announced that construction of the new $450 million National Carnival Entertainment Centre, at Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain, will begin before year’s end.

Speaking in the Senate Budget debate, Yuille-Williams said Opposition Senator Wade Mark was incorrect to say the centre will cost $700 million.

To those claiming the design of the new centre was flawed and had no local input, Yuille-Williams said this was not the case and the design has been deemed by a panel of international judges as the best in the Caribbean.

She dismissed Opposition claims of no funding for two academies of the performing arts that are to be built at the Princes Building Grounds in Port-of-Spain and Naparima Bowl, San Fernando. Stating that the former costs US$60 million (TT$378 million) and the latter costs US$40 million (TT$252 million), Yuille-Williams said Government has already worked out a loan arrangement with China to build these academies.

“So don’t complain about funds,” Yuille-Williams chided Mark.

She said funding for Pan Trinbago’s unfinished headquarters at Trincity was included in the last budget and the current one as well. The Minister explained that because the matter is in court, no work could proceed on it. However, she said the relevant papers have been sent to Attorney General John Jeremie and once she receives the green light from him, work will resume on that building. Yuille-Williams also denied reports that she told members of the Chutney Foundation to speak to Prime Minister Patrick Manning about funding and said the ministry does its best to address the concerns of all groups that approach it. Commenting on the contributions of Opposition senators Ato Boldon and Raziah Ahmed during the debate on Wednesday, Yuille-Williams assured them that no group is being marginalised. She also explained that it takes a multitude of interventions to address the concerns of many vulnerable groups.

Yuille-Williams defended the construction of the Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, saying that the country has been crying out for sporting facilities and now that Government has the resources at its disposal it would address this matter. She reminded Boldon that the stadium is only a small part of what will be a massive sport and education complex which could be used by locals as well as foreigners. Recalling the numerous visits he made to schools as part of a joint initiative of the Ministries of Education and Sport, Yuille-Williams urged Boldon to continue to be “part of the solution.”

Now I have seen the designs for this Carnival Centre, and while ambitious in it's concept I don't have much faith that the end product will be the same as what is on paper, just take look at the airport to see what I mean. For all the grand plans that were touted, the airport looks like a big warehouse. Apart from the futuristic design with retractable domed roof, ramped entry to the grand stage, enclosed seating for patrons and plans to house a Carnival library and archives I agree with the critics that there has been little thought of the practically of the Carnival Centre for it's intended use.

I doubt if anyone of those designers and architects have played mas religiously on the old, wooden Savannah stage to know that we masqueraders do not want the stadium atmosphere and artificial, sanitary feeling of being herded into an enclosed venue to experience our climatic release of energy and euphoria. I for one love the sun beating down on my body as I wait to cross the stage; I love the heat, the dust, seeing the spectators lining the route in the Savannah, being able to buy one more drink before crossing the stage because the drinks truck has disappeared. What will happen to the vendors, to the children that line the stage exit to beg for your costume? To me the Carnival Centre just makes everything very "proper" and "contained" which is the very thing Carnival is not.

All that was needed, in my humble opinion was a better, bigger stage , proper stands since the North stand was always in fear of falling to the ground come Panorama semi-finals and a modified access route to the Savannah so bands will not have to endure a lengthy wait to cross the stage. I guess now panorama semi-finals will never be what it was in that rickety North stand, with rhythm sections blazing and rum flowing like water.

So that brings me to the question of where will be crossing the stage for 2007? Will it be at the Stadium? Will we be constantly on the move with several judging points along the route? After the dust has settled on all the band launchings and costume choices this is the most important question of the day and I have read or heard nothing on the subject.

Come Monday be sure I will be calling up a few people who might be able to give me answers to this burning question. Investigative reporter Saucy will report the findings to all those who want the same question answered as well. Until then I can only speculate on what will become of the Carnival parade as I have known it all these years......

p.s. Thanks to Carnival Jumbie for the pic of the Carnival Centre.

Another Look at Saphyre

It was only last week that I wrote about the launch of Saphyre, and I was left wanting for some more information about the band itself. Well the fact is that Saphyre has been around offically since 2001, prior to that they were known as Showcase Associates which was founded in 1977 and has produced a band every year since then. To get some history behind the band Saphyre, have a read of the National Carnival Band Association band profile here.

Apart from that informationI also receieved the following email from the events co-ordinator for Saphyre:

"Our band is comprised of 9 youths (ranging between the ages of
17 to 25 years) and 8 senior members. We once were known as Showcase and
Associates some years ago however, times have changed and the senior
members decided it was time to pass on reigns to a younger more vibrant group of
individuals. We thus changed the name to Saphyre as Showcase is or was
a band of the past and we the youths are now in control with the senior
members guiding us.

Our camp is located at 118 Oxford Street Port of Spain (Between
Frederick and Pembroke Streets upper Port of Spain) and we are opened between the hours of 9am to 10pm Monday to Saturday.

Contact Carlene Greaves 678-7349,Colin Greaves 779-7075 or Aleema Ranjisingh at 732-7825 for more information."

Personally, I think it is refreshing to learn that the band has youths at the helm, with the elders passing the baton.Competing as medium band now, I wish them all the success for 2007. If you want to see more photos from their launch, there is a gallery of photos at
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