Monthly Archives: August 2013

East Port of Spain reborn

epos-planEvery muscle of our society is straining. The murders are just the most graphic shudders indicating something is deeply wrong with the body of the Republic. Every right-minded citizen must engage in the repair. “Do not go gentle into that good night./ Rage, rage against the dying of the light…”

East Port of Spain is ground zero. Over the last decade over 1,000 black boys were killed by other black boys. Thousands of American, Israeli, and Russian-made guns entered the community along with hundreds of millions in drugs from Latin America. The community is collapsing dangerously. The murders are becoming more shocking, gruesome, and all-inclusive. And we’ve not hit bottom yet…I’ve written at length about the causes of gang-formation before: This is about solutions.

The tragedy is not just the hellish bloodletting—but the response of our leaders. When our political leaders speak about solutions it’s as if 150 years of human scholarship in sociology, psychology, cultural anthropology, and urban planning never happened. As if humans haven’t found reasons or solutions for urban collapse and youth violence in 200 years. What terrifies is the primary-school level solutions—more police, bigger guns, cable cars… It’s clear we cannot let politicians lead the actions for repair of East Port of Spain (EPOS).
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PSIP submission for the developmental spend for the Sector

psip2013In the last 3 years ACTT has been able to win major National Budget battles by going straight to the Ministry of Finance and by bypassing our line-Ministry (the Ministry of Arts) who seemed never interested in the progressive agendas of the Sector. ACTT was able to convince the Finance Minister and his technocrats- and other allies in government we would canvas- of the validity of our programmes. That’s how for the first 2 PPG Budgets ACTT was able to win 75%+ of the progressive agenda for the Sector in the Budgets- gains the Sector had not been able to win since Independence. The problem was that there was no implementation of these agendas. For a number of reasons.

One big reason was because the Sector’s implementing arm—the Ministry of Arts—was never on-board the Sector’s vision. ACTT’s president Rubadiri Victor accepted an appointment as Advisor to the Minister of Arts because it came with the express mission of Implementation of the Progressive Agenda. This means that the opportunity exists- for the first time in the history of the Sector- for the vision of the Sector to also become the vision of the Minister and Ministry! This of course is easier said than done, but the process has now been engaged.

The most important outcome of this has been the thrust by Rubadiri to get the Ministry to adopt ACTT’s and the Sector’s progressive agenda as its own. This is a developmental agenda meant to retool the sector from a $1.7 billion earner annually to becoming a $6- $7 billion earner annually within 4 years. This transformation is possible by the creating of an enabling ecosystem of legislation, institutions, policies, and enabling fiscal programmes which are international Best Practice. The fail-safe for implementation is the creation of an Arts Council based on the renowned Canadian and British Best Practice models as the vehicle for implementation.

This document is the full Budget document for the 2013/14 PSIP. On Budget Day September 9th 2013 the sector and the nation will see if government has heeded the Sector’s warnings and adopted the Sector’s vision.

Our festivals, Part 2

Most local festivals have now reached critical mass as folk festivals and require sensitive interventions to survive. They are at crossroads for a variety of reasons. These include: the migration of the original source population from the original festival site. Sometimes this is rural-to-urban drift — as is the case with some Hosay and Ramleela communities. Many of the Golden Age genius artisans of mas moved from “ghettoes to suburbs” —leaving East Port of Spain and Belmont for Diego Martin and elsewhere. Many left the country and seeded the 300 Trini-styled carnivals worldwide. These migrations have jeopardised the festival in the original community…

In many national festivals the founding fathers and Golden Age generations who established the classical form of the festival have died — and a new generation is carrying it on with less ritual knowledge and artisan skill. This is the case with many festivals with ritual dances and drum-based music in both East Indian and African communities. Most of the master-drummers and dancers from both sets of traditions have died in the last decade and there are no clear heirs to the Masters’ thrones who have the full vocabulary of local drum and dance practices. Because of this a number of local traditions have disappeared.

In other cases the festival has expanded beyond its original folk footprint and now involves all kinds of outsiders, marketplace activity, and a larger audience…The festival simply has outgrown its scale… Like Paramin’s Parang festival…

In all of these situations we are now entrusted with the critical task of retooling and innovating our festivals sensitively — to either become larger ritual events that remain true to their original sacred purpose — or expanded economised events which embrace the possibilities of dynamic cottage economies as well as multi-million dollar tourist potentials. Even in this type of transformation it’s critical that the festival preserve its source components. If this isn’t done the festival will collapse — and its earning potential disappear.
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Emancipation, Carnival and our festivals

This article continues exploring the stakeholder masterplan for the Creative Sector—plans to grow it from a $1.9 billion annual earner to a $7 billion one in four short years. These interventions were submitted to Cabinet for inclusion in the 2013/14 Budget. Festivals earn about $1.3 billion annually. Carnival earns the lion’s share. Festivals can earn $3 billion annually. Here’s how.

In my last article I said it’s our Gift that we’re ‘the Festival Nation’. Somehow the ‘festival tribes’ of the races of the world ended up here—and created a nation where every month we re-initiate ourselves with sacred and secular festivals. Unlike other places in the world we’ve made these festivals public, national, and inclusive. The entire island feels ownership and belonging to the narrative of these festivals to some degree. Few other people open their ethnic festivals to outsiders. This coming together of festival tribes from Amerindian, Africa, Europe, and Asia created the mother Festival of Trinidad’s Carnival.

In many festivals with an East Indian component we’re past 100 years of celebration. In Carnival we’re moving into 180 years. Other festivals are into their 50th year… These ages are important because we’ve not built the institutions to document, analyse, and pass on our Festival Legacy. This failure to create institutions to support our civilisation—like proper Academies and Universities, proper Museums or Heritage Sites, or proper Historical Societies and Guilds—means we’ve left the responsibility of recording and transmitting tradition to practitioners themselves.

The age of our festivals is important because traditions collapse after the fourth generation if the central institution has fallen or been weakened. Twenty years is a generational cycle. This means most of our traditions are past their fourth generation… Read the rest of this entry