“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
The chairman of the National Carnival Commission (NCC), Allison Demas, is determined to revive the downtown Carnival for 2015 and has already begun talks with the Port-of-Spain City Corporation and other stakeholders to ensure a plan is agreed well in advance of next year’s event. Speaking to the T&T Guardian after an NCC press conference featuring members of the international media who were invited to attend and assess Carnival 2014 and report on its potential for international media distribution, Demas said talks about organising 2015 had begun with Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee even before this year’s Carnival had kicked off.
Asked about her desire to see Carnival returned to its traditional home downtown, she said, “In order to achieve that we’ve been working closely with the Port-of-Spain city corporation and we want to have downtown as one of the compulsory venues for judging of mas. “This week,” she said. “I don’t want to speculate, because we are waiting to analyse the GPS data. There were two GPS (global positioning systems) monitors placed on each of the trucks and we need to determine what caused the bands to avoid the downtown area.” She explained the circumstances that led to Socadrome (the alternative venue at the Jean Pierre Complex which some have blamed for taking Carnival away from the downtown area), saying transport engineers commissioned in January 2013 had a remit of coming up with the optimal Carnival route.
But the data collected was sketchy and late, finally arriving in December 2013. After meetings with bandleaders in January 2014, the major bands pushed for the new stage to the west of town.
“The Socadrome is definitely not the ideal option but I felt it was important to try and do something,” Demas said. She acknowledged that masqueraders like the experience of crossing the Savannah stage but said Carnival had outgrown the Savannah and the traditional route around town. Asked if she envisioned an expanded route for the future, Demas responded, “Yes, definitely. Whilst the police initially were reluctant when we put to them an extension of the route into St James, the fact they were able to extend the route for the Socadrome means they do have the capacity so we will be pressing for the police to apply that extended route into St James.”
Police have up until now refused requests for bands to parade through St James because they say they have limited manpower to police the 52 regional Carnival events that take place elsewhere in Trinidad outside of Port-of-Spain on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Asked whether the 260-acre grounds of the Queen’s Park Savannah could be better utilised for either parking or parading, Demas said, “There are environmental concerns and the rest of the Savannah comes under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Food Production and they try not to let people trample on the Savannah, understandably. “But around the Savannah could be an option.”