There has been an urgent appeal to Government from several creative and cultural groups that should not be ignored.
They represent a sector that has been one of the hardest hit by the lockdown measures of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest blow, in the form of a ban on public gatherings for entertainment purposes and the closure of performance spaces, has piled on further hardships.
In an unprecedented move, the collective voices of a diverse range of artistes, represented by the National Drama Association of T&T (NDATT), Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO), San Fernando Arts Council, T&T Promoters Association, the Tassa Association of T&T, and others, have joined in a desperate cry for help.
The restrictions announced by Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh resulted in the immediate cancellation or postponement of shows. These are not mere inconveniences but the sudden loss of income for performers who were relying on support from sponsors, investors, and audiences for their productions.
The 50th-anniversary activities planned by the National Parang Association and A Tribute Concert to Cultural Dance Icon—Torrance Mohammed are among the events halted by the lockdown.
While it can be argued that the coronavirus has sent the entire world into a tailspin, the reality is that the current crisis demands some out-of-the-box thinking by T&T’s decision-makers to protect and preserve the sectors that will need to be functioning contributors to the country’s growth and development post-COVID.
They should be seeing the value of the creative industries as drivers of the innovation and productivity that will finally bring T&T to that still elusive economic diversification and export growth on which our long-term prosperity depends.
The artistes now crying out for help belong to an industry that had emerged in the pre-pandemic days as a key growth sector in the region, contributing to GDP, exports, and employment. T&T, like many other countries in the Caribbean, has over many decades given to the world recognisable artistes and events, including our very own Carnival.
Before COVID-19, global market demand for cultural content had been steadily increasing and the cultural and creative industries sector had been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the world economy. This country’s decision-makers cannot lose sight of that fact.
Not too long ago, when plunging energy prices put diversification high on the national agenda, the Creative Industries Company Limited (CreativeTT) was put forward as the state enterprise that would “stimulate and facilitate the business development and export activities of the creative industries in T&T to generate national wealth.”
CreativeTT was seen as part of a vision to position T&T’s creative industries as key components of our long-term economic sustainability.
But now it seems, in the face of COVID-19's debilitating effect on the industry, that the agency is dormant.
Earlier on in the pandemic, CreativeTT had enunciated a plan “to attract new investment in the creative sector, utilising the latest technology and a move to more efficient ways of conduction training sessions, and programmes by moving to online platforms for webinars, training sessions.”
With so many in the industry on the brink of failure, it is time to shift that plan into high gear.