“This is not a fete in here this is madness.”
That line by David Rudder in his 1987 classic ‘Madness’ may aptly describe the feeling of many as to the direction being taken with cultural tourism.
Anyone visiting Trinidad in the last few months may have been wondering if our annual pre-Lenten Carnival, branded the greatest show on Earth, was just around the corner with fetes, band launches, party boat rides and mini-Jouverts almost every weekend. Carnival 2023 is seven months away in February.
Feteing and partying is part of ‘we culture’, some say, and the two years of no Carnival because of the pandemic was, for some, pure torture.
Those heavily involved in the entertainment industry – from Soca artistes to fete promoters, band leaders, to those who offer support services and even roadside vendors – were seriously affected losing in most cases their entire income.
This Sunday marks a month since our health officials advised citizens that it was okay to remove their masks in public. With most Covid restrictions lifted, there is a sense of freedom coursing through the wider society.
Many have taken this as a sign to ‘free up’ to ‘make up’ for the two years of intermittent lockdowns with ‘fete after fete after fete after fete’.
One government minister is reported to have said early on that the coming Carnival season will be the mother of all T&T Carnivals, and another thinks it prudent to make a residential area on the outskirts of the capital a key liming centre. Taken together, the perceived thinking of a fete mentality should cause everyone to press pause and reflect.
Not surprisingly, the Woodbrook community, through its residents committee, is resisting efforts to make their streets a partying ‘hot spot’ and their position is one which the wider national community should consider (see page 7).
“…A year-round carnival will do nothing other than dilute the original festival, eviscerating its social, cultural, and historical values. Too much of anything renders it stale and unattractive, and this practice would sound the death knell for the cultural tourism that could yet be an income-earner for Trinidad and Tobago.”
A failure then to re-evaluate this current thrust, all being done in the name of T&T culture, the generation of the economic growth, and improving livelihoods, may bring more harm than good.
Using the Woodbrook experience as an example, there will be increased noise pollution and the sense of community life will be lowered. Then there will be those visitors unable to manage their alcohol consumption and lascivious behaviour. Imagine these every weekend. What are the possible ramifications in the long-term on the national psyche and productivity?
With this country set to celebrate its diamond jubilee of Independence in the next two weeks, and a flurry of fetes being planned, stakeholders should hold strain on the push to go beyond the branding of being ‘the fete capital of the world’.