“Does being so far out at sea in a small pirogue require courage?” I ask him.
Twenty-six-year-old Simba Garraway chuckles.
Despite reports of its success as a financial venture, opinions remain divided on whether the Panorama Party on the Greens for the semifinal of the National Steelband Panorama Competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port-of-Spain is “creative genius at work” or something that has “zero positive value to the main event—Panorama and its performers.”
Popular Web site When Steel Talks had this to say about last year’s event: “It’s hard to believe that the Prime Minister of T&T could ever look at the diametrically opposing forces of the Panorama and Party on the Greens and say—‘Now that’s what I’m talking about.’ It is hard to imagine the government officials, or CEOs of the companies that sponsor the toxic mix of the Greens and Panorama saying ‘I don’t mind if my grandchild—after hard work and study for a music performance in a National Championship—plays his/her heart out, but is nothing more than background music to a disinterested gathering.’ But that is what transpired at the event.”
It asked, rhetorically, “Is this what 50 years of Panorama has brought?”, alluding to the fact that last year Pan Trinbago, the organisation responsible for the annual event, celebrated 50 years of staging the competition.
Panorama, it opined, is about dedication, seriousness, art and culture, commitment, hard work, focus, excellence, respect—and music. The Greens is about partying to the max, combined with a total and utter disregard for Panorama and the steel orchestras. And for some individuals—a licence to be as disruptive as you want to be.
In on-camera interviews, several patrons on the Greens, including local showbiz personalities, said they were there to “party,” have fun, etc; others pointedly said they were not there for the Panorama. So the ultimate question is: why does the organiser of the Panorama continue to promote a separate and unequal event which directly competes and at times impedes the very show that is supposed to be the marquis, and only event—Panorama?
Vice president of Pan Trinbago Bryon Serrette is the person with direct responsibility for organising the Greens. Asked to explain the rationale behind the decision, he contended:
“Just as everything undergoes change, Panorama is also undergoing change. Anyone who has been following the competition over the years will realise that while a lot of the younger generation members are playing with the steelbands, their peers have not been supporting the event. My investigations have revealed that these young people like Carnival, and wish to be part of all the activities that take place during the season. Panorama is a major event on the Carnival schedule, and they would like to be part of the scene.
“However, they would prefer not to sit in one spot for hours listening to the bands. They would like to mix and mingle with their friends and have fun while still being ‘at Panorama.’ Pan Trinbago, therefore, took the decision to accommodate these patrons by giving them a space in which they would be comfortable, and at the same time contribute to the revenues we are expected to generate from the event.”
In terms of revenue for 2012, the figure was doubled from Panorama 2011. Then CEO of the National Carnival Commission (NCC) Clarence Moe, speaking at a joint select committee meeting in Parliament in April 2012, said the figure had moved from about $2.5 million to $5 million, and described it as a “phenomenal increase.”
He acknowledged that there were those who were opposed to the party, saying it was a distraction from Panorama.
“This is a justifiable claim,” he said. “However, there is a need to raise revenue and there is a potential for revenue.” He noted that young people were “returning to pan simply because they could listen to the big bands and still have a good time. That’s an attraction, so whereas we would have 7,000, we would now have 15,000.”
Serrette said he estimated last year’s crowd would go down as the largest in the history of a Panorama semifinal, but refrained from divulging how much revenue it generated. A change from the previous year saw the Greens extended further north in the Savannah, and bleachers placed at the front, allowing patrons a place to go and listen to their favourite bands perform. There were also strategically placed large screens displaying the action taking place on the big stage.
Serrette said patrons of the Greens were very supportive of the space, and for Carnival 2014, a further extension is planned, and other necessary changes will take place to make the area more accommodating to users.
However, the Greens will still be separated from the North Stand.
“The Fire Services will not allow the ‘co-mingling’ of patrons, as it raises a question of safety,” he said. “So patrons of the 2014 Panorama semifinal will again have a choice of three areas from which to enjoy the event—Grand Stand, North Stand, and Greens.”
• Read more about the plans for the Greens in tomorrow’s Pulse by Peter Ray Blood.
The T&T Guardian sought the views from some stakeholders in the Panorama Competition concerning the Greens. Here are their comments.
Communications manager at the Unit Trust Corporation (UTC) Rory Rostant: “We see the Greens as an opportunity for staff engagement and to be part of an event that has become an integral part of the Carnival calendar. Not only do we celebrate our national instrument, but the Greens allows the Unit Trust to showcase our brand in a festive atmosphere. UTC is as much a part of the financial landscape as Panorama is to Carnival.”
Television personality Alvin Daniell has been doing commentary on Panorama for many years. “As far as I know there has never been any negative feedback about the Greens interrupting the broadcast. From a personal point of view, it has never affected my commentary, and I have never heard any other commentator complaining. In my view, Pan Trinbago has many more important issues to deal with than the Greens.”
Founder/manager of popular south steel orchestra NLCB Fonclaire Milton “Wire” Austin: “As a steelbandsman, I see the Greens as a good financial venture for Pan Trinbago, and I hope the organisation does everything to make it better every year. There was some concern about the noise coming from there in the first year. But that was contained successfully in the following year.
“As a matter of fact, this year the sound system is designed to be cut every time a band begins its performance on stage. I am glad the idea was started. The Greens will always be there, allowing Panorama to provide entertainment for everybody. In any event, it is the steelbands that will benefit financially from the venture.”
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