What We Do
What Does ACTT actually do?
- The following gives an overview of ACTT’s work in 2012. It looks at projects engaged, battles fought, ground won and lost. It is a dispassionate assessment of the battlefield of cultural activism and ACTT’s role in it. It may be possible in hindsight to look back and see 2012 as a turning point in the battle for the mainstreaming of the progressive agendas of the Cultural Sector in Trinidad & Tobago: ACTT IN 2012
ACTT has engaged in many activities in its decade long existence. ACTT appeared first as a small gathering of artists in 1997 who took it upon themselves to start to document and compile all national artists’ demands and consolidate them. Its first incarnation as a collective- then called The Entertainment Industry Coalition (EIC) in 2000- mobilised a series of national artist marches principally around the issue of National Local Content Broadcast Quotas. This evolved into ACTT’s present incarnation which is a determined lobby for artist and cultural industry macro-industrial interests.
Ever since its appearance as ACTT its executive has worked tirelessly for cultural industry interests and has attempted to create an institutional memory for artist and their struggles.
The following is just a short list of some of the more visible of ACTT’s interventions in the T&T landscape:
- Represented Trinidad & Tobago artist positions in the negotiations for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2009
- Directed the Performance segment of the Opening of the CHOGUM People’s Forum
- Represented Trinidad & Tobago and Caribbean artist positions in the negotiations for the 5th Summit of the Americas People’s Forum 2009
- Presented the T&T and Caribbean Artist position at 5th Summit of the Americas People’s Forum 2009
- Currently collecting hundreds of non-soca, non-calypso and non-chutney albums by local musicians to present them to the Ministers of Legal Affairs, Trade and Industry, and Culture- as well as the Telecommunications Authority- to assist in the ongoing lobby for Local Content Quotas in the Broadcast Industry. Also submitted position paper.
- 2009 Represented industry stakeholder positions to the Commission of Enquiry into the Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDECOTT) particularly into cultural industry concern over stakeholder freeze-outs in consultation over $5 Billion worth of cultural institutions after a zero dollar spend for 43 years. Got the sitting Minister to finally agree to consult with stakeholders.
- Created dozens of Institutional Minimum Specification Documents for a range of Artist Institutions including Performance Arts Spaces, Community Centres, Museums, etc and submitted same to the relevant Ministries, etc (See enclosed documents)
- Lobbied tirelessly for government to consult artist stakeholders on the entire range of cultural institutions that are being built since 2003- these lobbies were able to affect certain institutional specs as well as the administrative and programming plans for some of these institutions as well as freeze the building of others. This is an ongoing campaign…
- Created dozens of Policy Templates, compiled International Legislative precedents, and formulated dozens of Working Documents for Cultural Reform in the country and submitted them to the relevant Ministries and Authorities. These include: a National Genius Grant Scheme called The Magnificent Sevens and a working Institutional Framework for the just created University of Trinidad and Tobago Arts and Letters Academies (enclosed)
- Represented Trinidad Artist positions to the European Economic Partnership Agreement in 2008
- Represented Trinidad Artist positions to the UNESCO, UNCTAD Fund negotiations 2008.
- Mobilised Musicians and artists and organised public marches in 2000, 2001 and 2003 over the question of local broadcast quotas which resulted in the liberalisation of the airwaves and the freeing up of station licences. Actually drafted the amendment to the Legislation that was to be included in the 2000 Telecommunications Bill which was then stricken at the last moment due to competing lobbies.
- 1997- present: Lobbying for the building of important ‘Missing Cultural Institutions’ like Museums, Halls of Fames, Heritage sites, Performing Arts Centres, Academies, Archives, etc. This lobby was partially responsible for the amazing announcement of over $5 Billion of these institutions being announced to be built in the 2003 National Budget
- 1997- present: Lobbying for culturally sensitive policies and legislation- crowned by the demand for the creation of a long demanded National Cultural Policy.
- 2007- 2008: Interim President Rubadiri Victor then Co-authored the Draft National Cultural Policy of Trinidad and Tobago
- 2008-9: Lobbying for the release of the National Draft Cultural Policy document for Public Consultation which has not been released to the public for over a year.
- Tireless media appearances representing artist’s positions to the public at large to sensitise them to artists issues
WHAT WE HAVE ACCOMPLISHED WHEN WE ORGANISE
Often as artists we feel that we are spinning top in mud when it comes to dealing with government and getting them to understand that they do not understand the Cultural Industry sector and are sabotaging it profoundly. We often feel that for all our complaining and marching, lobbying and plain old quarrelling has borne no fruit. This is not true. Our actions in the last ten years have borne fruit- just not as much as should have been expected. We still may be about at 20 years behind where we should be in terms of infrastructure and legislation but we are rapidly gaining ground on the inaction of the past.
VICTORIES OF OUR PAST AGITATIONS
- Through our consistent lobbying, agitation, constant sensitization and clarity government is now spending about $5 Billion on Cultural Infrastructure. This is significant. Government has thus moved from a $0 spend on cultural infrastructure over 40 years (!) to $5 Billion. Government is now building: 3 Arts Academies; 2 National Performing Arts Centres; a National Archives; a disputed Carnival Centre; and 200 Community Centres!
- The architectural conceptualization and configurations of some of these buildings show that government has listened to our past agitations. For example we urged strongly the twinning of the Arts Academies and the National Performing Arts Centre which they always saw as two separate facilities. This is happening.
- Some level of consultation into institutional architecture and programming has been engaged by the government after artist’s agitation- especially through the UTT. We have also been able to freeze the construction of the disputed Carnival Centre in the Savannah.
- After much campaigning the Recording Industry and the Film Industry have both been identified as 2 of 7 chosen sectors in the government’s Diversification of the Economy initiative. This culminates years of lobbying to get government to understand the significance to the cultural industries.
- The Entertainment Company thus has been formed as a result of consistent lobbying for a Grant-based agency to facilitate artists export led projects.
- The Film Company of Trinidad and Tobago has also been formed and recognized by Cabinet. Grant funding has been deployed regularly for 3 years and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival is now a feature on the landscape.
- The economic contribution of Carnival and the Arts is being recognized as significant to the country’s GNP and overall economic activity in terms of employment, etc. Government now understands Culture as economics.
- After 3 artist marches, plenty noise, and Sat Maharaj’s lawsuit Government granted dozens of Broadcast licenses that had been frozen for over a decade. Now there are 35 radio stations and 10 local TV stations- 3 with nearly 100% local content! A Broadcast Code also has been developed.
- During the 90s TIDCO was a progressive corporation that listened to many artist demands and was able to advance many causes with their limited mandate. They took up industry initiatives like the compiling of a Cultural Industry Directory and the creation of a Film and TV Department.
- In the late 90s the 150% tax rebate for cultural sponsorship was granted.
- There was a Cultural Industry Company board that was formed in the Ministry of Trade and Industry. This follows many seminars and stakeholder consultation sessions in which the artist agendas were fully aired and built into much of the policy.
- The New Copyright Legislation has been passed.
- The Heritage Act was also passed and proclaimed.
- Significant progressive policy direction (on paper), statistics and understandings in government policy have been derived from our research, agitation, feasibilities, consultations, etc. There are now significant numbers of people in the public and private sector who understand what we have been saying and are allies in this.
- Significantly more money is available for artists through the Ministry of Culture than ever before. Unfortunately this subvention is neither transparent nor based on any decipherable system of merit and application.
- Of all the victories of the past agitations one of the most significant has been the actual drafting of The National Cultural Policy by a team of artist. This Draft Policy- which will organize all areas of the cultural industry- is hopefully soon to be released for public consultation.
- The population is today more sensitized to a range of artist issues than they have been before due to constant outreach.
- Cultural stakeholders have many institutional allies locally, regionally and internationally like the Contractors Association, the JCC and FITUN locally to many regional Ministries of Culture to WIPO and UNESCO internationally.