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.
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.
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.