Tobago bandleaders threaten boycott over $1.3m allocation

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

File photo: Queen of Carnival 2020, Lue-Ann Melville, portraying the Spirit of Carnival.

TOBAGO bandleaders are threatening to boycott next month’s Carnival if the $1.3 million allocation for the island’s mas fraternity is not increased.

Last Friday, Tobago Festivals Commission CEO John Arnold told Newsday that bandleaders were preparing feverishly for the festival.

“Ms (Jemma) Bedlow, chair of the Tobago Carnival Bandleaders Association, said her team has been preparing since the October Carnival. They are so proactive,” Arnold had said.

He said last Thursday, bandleaders from the south-western part of the island met with their counterparts in Roxborough to discuss plans for the event.

Arnold added the association had promised a greater level of participation and higher quality of mas for the festival.

During the interview, Arnold gave no indication that the mas fraternity was dissatisfied with its allocation.

Tobago has received an overall allocation of $9 million to prepare for next month’s event.

But speaking Tuesday in a video on Tobago Updates, Bedlow regarded the $1.3 million allocation as disrespectful to her membership.

“The bandleaders, along with myself, feel disrespected about the allocation given to mas,” said an angry Bedlow, who was accompanied by several bandleaders.

“I know I will get enemies. But being on the board of the (Tobago) festival (commission), I am representing mas and I have to stand up for my bandleaders. I am not here discussing no board business. I am discussing mas and we are tired of the disrespect. An allocation of 1.3 million, we, the bandleaders, are saying no.”

Bedlow said the association, which represents some 32 bandleaders, had submitted a budget for $3.5 million for the festival.

“I know it still small.”

Noting that Tobago received an allocation of $17.5 million for the October Carnival, Bedlow asked, “Could someone tell me what the bands make? Nothing “

She said some bands took loans from commercial banks, credit unions and other financial institutions to finance their presentations.

“They still paying it back and some bands bust. But bands must make back something.”

Bedlow, who has been involved in mas for more than two decades, said merchandise was not cheap.

“One peacock feather by Samaroo’s (mas supplier) is $1,000. And to get a budget of $1.3 million, we going back in yesteryear where the Band of Year was getting $60,000. I am not taking that. Bands must make money and if they are asking me for quality. they will get it.

“But give me money. Meet me halfway, some way. But that $1.3 million. I am not accepting that.”

Bedlow said over the past few months, she has been begging for a meeting with Chief Secretary Farley Augustine.

“He need to see me because I know Tobago Carnival.”

She claimed moves are afoot to prevent the island from participating in the national festival.

“That is what they want inno – to stop the Tobago national carnival and focus on the October. But no money, no mas.”

Bedlow poured cold water on the view that the $1.3 million allocation was linked to the fact that the island had its own Carnival in October.

Arnold recently told Newsday that Tobago is capable of sustaining two carnivals.

He said the island’s artistic fraternity has already embraced the idea.

“The artistic community will love to have three festivals, anything for them to show off and make money,” he said.