A group of Carnival bandleaders is threatening to boycott next year's festival. They are also blaming the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) for several major issues which they say made this year's Carnival celebrations the worst in recent history. The criticism of the NCBA and its leader David Lopez's management of several mas competitions was the main topic of discussion during a Carnival post-mortem held on Thursday evening by the T&T Carnival Bands Association (TTCBA).
The TTCBA was formed last year by a group of veteran bandleaders to provide an alternative association for mas stakeholders who no longer subscribed to the NCBA. While addressing about three dozen members of the TTCBA at the Port-of-Spain City Hall on Thursday night, the group's president, Gerard Weekes, identified the NCBA's new parade route, new rules and the lack of transparent judging in competitions as the major problems which affected his members.
"We have just been through a very challenging and controversial Carnival. One filled with chaos, arguments and confusion," Weekes said. Weekes described the change of the parade route which bypassed much of downtown Carnival as a "disrespect to the birthplace of Carnival." He also questioned the NCBA's decision to change the parade route despite Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee's open support of downtown Carnival.
"If the mayor of Port-of-Spain could stand up and say he is being disrespected by the leader of the NCBA, then we have to take stock," Weekes said. Several leaders of junior bands who spoke during the meeting also expressed disappointment with the NCBA's new parade route for the junior parade on Carnival Saturday. Bands began in Woodbrook rather than their traditional starting point at downtown Port-of-Spain.
Tim Kee was at the meeting and spoke briefly. While he did not explicitly identify Lopez, it was obvious that his comments were directed to Lopez. "Someone tried to compromise our Carnival by letting personal differences cloud decisions...He does not understand or care of the damage he is doing. History will not be kind to him for that," Tim Kee said while being applauded by the modest crowd.
Tim Kee suggested that the TTCBA brainstorm ideas for improvements to Carnival and then make suggestions to the National Carnival Commission (NCC) and the Ministry of Arts and Multiculturalism. The vocal bandleaders were also highly critical of adjustments to the rules of the competitions introduced by the NCBA up to Carnival Thursday, which they claimed were not properly communicated to them.
Among the new rules, which the group labelled "archaic and draconian," were ones which reduced bands' scores by 50 per cent if they were found to have veered off the parade route. Contacted yesterday, Lopez refused to comment on the criticism levelled against him and his group. He said, "I am not prepared to deal with that...People could say a lot of bad things, I can't respond to all of them."