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Members of the arts fraternity have been stunned and affronted by the recently revealed government plans for the creative sector. On Friday I attended a meeting at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, Belmont, in which around 20 artists got together to identify a strategy for moving forward in light of these plans. The meeting followed one hosted by the Artists Coalition (ACTT) two weeks ago.
At Friday’s meeting, much of the discussion centred on the Public Sector Investment Programme (PISP) 2013, dated October 2012 and published by the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development. The document includes a few sections on the creative sector, including this: “Another aspect of the diversification strategy is the development of the Creative Industry for which $15 million will be appropriated in support of the Film, Entertainment and Fashion Industries.
Financial support will be given to the Creative Industries Company (formerly the Trinidad and Tobago Film Company) to continue promoting the local film industry with emphasis on feature film programmes, film familiarisation tours, provision of film incentives, hosting of film festivals and execution of the Production Assistance and Script Development Programme.”
Several of those at the meeting were filmmakers, and they seemed alarmed at the prospect that the Film Company would be wrapped up and replaced by a new company—one that seems to be a supercompany responsible for not just film but fashion and entertainment.
Apart from how ridiculous it would be to expect one company to do all that—didn’t TIDCO try that years ago?—there was at the meeting a widespread feeling that things were being done by the Government without consultation or discussion with stakeholders.
The Film Company, one person said, is on a learning curve; they haven’t got everything right but they are making important gains for the industry. What will happen to those gains when that company is dissolved?
ACTT’s Rubadiri Victor dropped in to the meeting and praised artists there for taking an interest in their own progress, and indicated that ACTT had been taken aback by the situation as much as anybody. ACTT has already submitted a comprehensive plan for the development of the creative cultural sector, a plan created after consultation and research, and accepted by the Government.
The new plan does not have stakeholder approval and many at the meeting decried the idea of wrapping up the Film Company and the Entertainment Company (TTENT) and replacing two separate entities with one company—presumably with a smaller budget and fewer staff, because that is how one downsizes.
One of the ACTT recommendations is for the formation of an arts council—a recommendation I’ve independently made myself a number of times. ACTT’s recommendation came out of the expert panel meetings held last year, meetings made infamous because Pat Bishop died after attending one of them. It would be a shameful blot on this country’s soul if she died in vain.
A national arts council would be transparent, accountable, and fair, promoting the development of the arts through grants and subsidies, as well as providing institutional support in other ways. The ACTT Web site in the document Final Report Ideas from the Expert Panel states in part: “The Arts Council is established ‘for the promotion of excellence and economic advancement in all aspects of the creative and performing arts in Trinidad and Tobago.’”
Pat’s words. It should be based along the English and Canadian lines—and should place the funds under its purview under the care of a hired fund manager.” Will the new mandate articulated in the PISP take this into account? It’s not mentioned in the PISP.
Another hot topic at Friday’s meeting was the proposed consultation that the Ministry of the Arts and Multiculturalism plans to host on October 29 at the Centre of Excellence and on October 31 in Tobago.
The consultation will look at the National Multiculturalism Policy Framework Draft and the Draft National Cultural Policy (both of which are available online on the ministry’s Web site).
It is urgently important that art creators and those who provide support to artists be part of this process. Meeting facilitators Timmia Hearn Feldman and Mandissa Pantin urged everyone present to send the draft documents far and wide, and to encourage everyone to attend the consultations and enjoin their friends to do so as well.
To register, call 627-4991 or 625-6962; registration closes October 26. I would also urge artists and arts support workers to attend these consultations en masse. If there are changes that are going to come, let it not be said that artists took no interest in their own future.
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