I am tired of Foreday Morning

 

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To this day I still recall the bone crushing sound that had everyone running to the music truck by the roundabout at the Port and my school friend shouting, let’s go see. I aggressively shook my head in disapproval as I stood fearful of the possibility of what that sound meant, in the middle of Spring Garden, on the night of Foreday. This incident occurred before Facebook and back in a time when we all BBM-ed each other. I appreciate the relatively recent restrictions placed by the National Cultural Foundation and the Royal Barbados Police Force, on what has become the biggest event of the Crop Over season. As a citizen of both Trinidad and Barbados, I have seen the evolution of Foreday morning and Jouvert, particularly in the last 10 years.

As a band leader with a large contingent of international and regional visitors, most of them have lamented on how safe they feel on the night of Foreday. Some might even say the structure of a parade for a paint themed event is admirable, because it is unlikely that you can find a Trini who will roll out of their bed at 4am to watch people have a good time plastered in paint/cocoa/clay. This year also saw an increase in lighting and maybe even army presence, there stance on the route were met with a sense of relief to many. From an Events Manager perspective, there is an underlying sense of relief knowing that just about every mile approached we are likely to meet support for my 50+ security personnel.

It is unfortunate that this outlook on security cannot be married with a unified approach to how Foreday Morning can evolve. Since I’ve been a monetary participant to the Crop Over festival, I’ve been privy to the NCF annually meeting with the stakeholders, items are discussed, yet on the night everything goes out the window. My very first year, we almost never made it to the road because the police in charge at the time had an issue with our lack of coverage of the wheels. Thankfully he compromised and assigned a police officer to the said truck, to this day I am forever grateful. Fast forward 4 years later, we had another Police Officer threaten to ‘shut us down’, because he didn’t believe we met the criteria, although it was clear as the diagrams submitted by NCF, we did as we were told. I witnessed my team pull wood from God alone knows where, and rectified the situation in less than an hour, they truly inspire me to continue every year.

 

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This season, however, could have been themed, The Struggle. We struggled with sponsorship, numbers, general operations, staff and finally on the night, the NCF and the RBPF. I am a businesswoman, so everything is part of the package of entrepreneurship but the latter could have been avoided. Just outside of Queen’s Park my trucks were lined up on the far right not blocking anyone, while other bands passed us. We were waiting on our toilets, which were being delayed at the entrance by the police. Admittedly, he had to get his number from someone who was on the inside, but for some reason one particular NCF official was not about to wait 10 minutes for us to get it to him. The exact scenario included me requesting that the band behind us go ahead, as we waited for 15 minutes for the toilet truck to meet us, this was met by vehement shouting. Between the head NCF official and the head of the RBPF, they both shouted if we do not leave now we will be shut down. Everyone within ear shot were all staring as if a physical fight was about to start, even my assigned NCF marshal wasn’t sure why the aggression was necessary. With a few hundred persons in tow, it was clear that not going on the road wasn’t an option, so we proceeded. As I watched my trucks move off, I gathered myself for a few minutes and watched a few bands pass by and saw another ‘altercation’ with bandleaders and an NCF official who cut their rope. Needless to say, they were appalled by the decision without consulting them and guess the NCF official response?! I’m paraphrasing, “….move off now or you will be shut down.” It’s a silent understanding that Foreday Morning bandleaders are somewhat Crop Over outcasts, that’s why I must publicly thank Spectrum Foreday Band for allowing us the use of their toilets. More than ever, I believe it’s time to form a Bandleader association.

 

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It’s fair to say there is a pattern in how Foreday Morning is managed and it’s basically killing the event. Foreday Morning is now competing with 4 major events. Baje jouvert has always been a staple on the night, but it’s clear that the option for paint without the ‘drama’ is proving to be a favourable option to hundreds, if not thousands of patrons. In our annual survey, we have continuous complaints about the stopping of the music, the inability to drink while waiting to move off (includes water) and the aggressive approach to keeping everyone inside the rope. Although I was born in Trinidad, my upbringing is seamed in Bajan culture and I love both islands equally. However when it comes to my business, I’m disappointed by how the Barbadian powers that be are so caught up in ‘shutting you down’, instead of creating a favourable environment for band leaders to manage the thousands of people who entrust us for those few hours to bring revelry and memorable moments. We had a group from Singapore one year, imagine if their experience was marred by not taking the streets to experience the event they were waiting a whole year for?!

Foreday morning is unique to Barbados. I recall a popular Trinidad Carnival site that posted photos of ‘costumes for jouvert’ and everyone was appalled by the idea. Now I see ‘costumes’ as part of a section in Point Fortin Jouvert. There was a Barbados Tourism contingent last year that visited Trinidad Carnival, there should be discussions about creating a Foreday Morning experience and allowing Bajan Bandleaders the opportunity to showcase their brands for Crop Over in Trinidad. But alas I have merely dreams and a business to run.

Sometimes I have to ask; why is NCF trying to stifle the experience, instead of packaging it and sharing it with the world? There should be systems in place to support bandleaders because mistakes happen, we may have a plan A to T, but it would be nice to know that the NCF has us covered from plan U-Z. Communications with everyone on the night also seem non-existent.

The islands of Barbados and Trinidad, approach their Crop Over/Carnival season like Microsoft and Google approach technology. Barbados has an Enterprise outlook and tries to control just about every aspect of the operations while Trinidad has an open source take on Carnival. Both can survive in the world of tourism, but who is bringing in more revenue per capita? You should try and Bing that.

2 thoughts on “I am tired of Foreday Morning

  1. I am sat here in my pristine condition Damage Kontrol t-shirt disappointed I missed out on getting it dirty this year. It was my decision to leave as the band was setting off for many reasons. We were advised to assemble at 11pm, which we did. We were in an empty BTI car park, which last year was full to bursting with people and anticipation. We were not allowed to go near the truck until we moved, there were no toilet facilities and nowhere to get a drink unless we left the area and sought to buy one ourselves. We stood on the road outside the car park under hot floodlights with a heavy police presence for hours with nowhere to go. We could hear other trucks passing along Broad Street knowing we were number FOUR and wondering when our turn would come. Some three and a half hours after assembling we were finally able to move but by this time I was dehydrated, my head was throbbing, my back aching due to all that standing around and I needed to use a toilet, any toilet, and tried to find one but there were none. We rejoined our band on the bridge only a couple of hundred metres from the start, which was silent and had been told to hurry across the bridge. Isn’t this the same bridge that hundreds of vehicles and pedestrians use every day? By now my Foreday had been tarnished so we went home disappointed. We will sign up to do it next year but will keep a close eye on proceedings and may even only join the band en-route to cut the waiting and go straight into the fun. Why oh why do they make bands get there so early when they know they will not move until after a certain time. Rant over!

  2. Good day,

    I write with both an understanding as well as a objective view to your blog.

    As a masquerader who has jumped with Collision before as well as other bands, I concur that Foreday Morning has evolved well past the expectations of many. With a reported total of 56+ bands, this is truly a record setting number for the event.

    As you mentioned, the Police and Defense Force were out in their numbers this year and the event felt safer than ever. Kudos to them for this even though it was influenced by the threat of violence from the wannabe bad-men and thugs. Still, kudos to the cops! It must have been nerve racking for them expecting some major catastrophe; what a sigh of relief it must have been when the event ended without such.

    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that it would be a production nightmare to have these many bands on the road and have them all reach Spring Garden within such a strict time limit and still have the “long” jump, especially with a history of unpreparedness and last minute hiccups.

    My band moved from the BTI Carpark this year but a lot of my friends were in Collision. They lamented at the fact that many bands from the Queen’s Park start point, including Collision, were not prepared.

    The reason I did not jump with Collision this year was to help a friend with the organization of his band and such, I had the “privilege” of attending the Foreday Morning bandleader meetings and interacting with the producers.

    I must give them props for taking on the task of producing this event. They were very willing to address any and all queries that we had. They walked us through the logistics of our start point. They noted the “no nonsense” approach that the Police would have on the night due to the potential threat. They stressed on multiple occasions the importance of being fully prepared so that when it was time to move, there would be no delays. (One of them even personally delivered our vehicle passes which was a nice touch!)
    You mentioned the fact that you had to wait on toilet trucks and the row that ensued due to their absence. The NCF and Police cannot be blamed for having a sense of urgency.
    As complex as the preparations for the event might be, all that is really asked of the bandleaders from them is that they be prepared and cooperative. With little room for error, you cannot expect them to be able to give much room for leverage.

    Consider this also……the producers are our link to the NCF big heads. They are the ones that relay the decisions made in the meetings at the roundtable behind closed doors. They are caught in the crossfire on the night dealing with unprepared bands (having to make impromptu decisions and actions) and short-tempered police ready to shut down a band in a heartbeat; especially those that threaten the smooth and delicate progression of the event. It is not fair that Peter must pay for Paul, leaving Paul to pay for all.

    You must consider the fact that any delays at your start point directly affects (and affected) the BTI start point as we had to wait until you guys cleared before being allowed to jump!
    You should not be surprised to hear that many of the BTI bandleaders have complaints to lodge to the NCF……… against the Queen’s Park’s contingent!

    I was not there to see all the happenings but the defining factor is that if all the bands were prepared and ready, then any hiccups may have been met with more leniency.

    We keep comparing the Bajan demographic to that of Trinidad and by extension, their respective festivals. They are two different entities each with their own unique challenges. Nothing wrong with recognizing similarities or elements that could be introduced into our festival but the logistics and cultural history of each festival have their differences. However, this is a topic that can spawn long, diverse and vivid discussions best left for another time.

    The fact that Spektrum Band allowed you to use their toilets shows a presence of comradery that must be commended and I once again agree with you that an Association needs to be formed. All the results from surveys etc. can and should be pooled together and communicated strongly and clearly. It is interesting that you mention the fact that not being allowed to serve drinks was a noted issue. Some bands make it a rule and see it as ideal and lucrative to not serve drinks until they hit the road. So…be prepared to fight some of these battles either by yourself or with limited back-up.

    With the few negative experiences, many other of our fellow bandleaders had very positive things to say about the night’s/morning’s proceedings for Foreday 2016. Speaking generally, we need to iron out all kinks and ensure that we conform to all requests and requirements of the NCF once within good reason. Don’t give up on them or on Foreday yet…evolution doesn’t necessarily mean instant perfection. You asked that the NCF have systems in place to support bandleaders as mistakes happen. A fair and noble request but it holds equal weight to the NCF asking us to be prepared on the night with our own contingency plans. We cannot always blame them. Sometimes, we need to be honest with ourselves and admit our shortfalls. This is a business we are running. People do not want to spend their hard earned money and arrive early ready to hit the road only to hear that a truck driver overslept, is running late and therefore our band will have to move last. Just saying.

    NCF Foreday Morning Producers, if you are reading this, please don’t give up either. You have made strides in the production of this event despite the limitations and logistical challenges you face. It is hoped that the powers that be recognize your efforts and offer more support to this cause.

    Long live Foreday Morning!!!!

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