An ongoing controversy between the Tobago Festivals Commission’s (TFC) executive chairman George Leacock and Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) Tobago chairman Ainsley King is threatening this year’s calypso season on the island.
The hands-off approach by Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Tourism Secretary Nadine Stewart-Phillips is making the situation worse, Tuco claims.
Earlier this week, the TFC established two new tents, funded by the THA, without Tuco’s involvement, claiming officials of the calypso organisation had not attended a proposal meeting.
Last year, there were nine THA-sponsored tents, for which “the expenditure proved fruitless as there was limited real calypso tent activity on the island”, Leacock said in a statement on January 24.
He said THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles had directed the TFC to resolve the issue, so a proposal had been prepared.
“The proposal will see more concentrated funding for two calypso tents and possibly a third—focused on development—in 2019,” he said in the statement.
Leacock said all interested parties were invited to a meeting, but “Tuco did not attend.” However, he added, “a small group of calypsonians attended and contributed to rounding out the proposal”.
King said Tuco officials are not prepared to meet with Leacock unless there is mediation.
In a January 26 statement, the calypso organisation said it had sent its budget and proposal to the TFC, as well as a separate letter claiming that Leacock’s “actions...over the past two years...(dictated that) mediation is necessary during any form of discussions (with him)”.
King said Tuco’s request for similar intervention in 2017 remained unaddressed.
“I went to the TFC office to meet with Mr Leacock to discuss radio advertising for Tuco events for the season. I was forcefully removed from the TFC office by George Leacock,” he claimed.
King said when he spoke with Stewart-Phillips about the incident, “she sends me back to Mr Leacock to find a solution”.
He asked: “How can she send me back to the same person who caused the problem in the first place without someone else to act as mediator?”
King said Tuco’s governing body in Trinidad will meet before the end of the week to discuss the way forward.
Stewart-Phillips declined to comment and said Leacock was handling all queries on the matter.