Cultural arts — specifically, Grenada’s carnival and how to enhance the product — were given indepth treatment by Ronald “Pappy” Charles in an article published in Caribupdate.
There is no disputing some of the analyses of our carnival by Charles; nor can any right and sensible person quarrel with many of his recommendations. He, for example, argues that in many respects, Spicemas has “fallen below our expectations”; and Charles calls for the creation of a “more sober and authentic carnival experience”.
We also concur with Charles on the position he takes on the refrain, often made on call-in radio and TV talkshows, for carnival to be “run like a business”. Indeed, the Spicemas Corporation — like many institutions in our society — could do a better job in all aspects of administration and governance.
But “run like a business” tends to convey the impression that every business that has ever started has conducted itself proficiently, effectively and properly. In moments of the demand for carnival to be “run like a business”, the callers and others in our society appear to suffer temporary amnesia, forgetting the many entities like CLICO and BAICO that were supposed to be “run like a business”, but which went belly-up; and it was the banking and business sector that plunged the world into the economic crisis that still plagues almost every nation.
Further, if our carnival is to be genuinely “run like a business’’, it may necessitate the removal of subsidies that allow the mass of the Grenadian people to attend events at no or very low-cost. Yes, the $50 or $60 charged for Soca Monarch, for instance, is a subsidised entry fee. The real cost of Soca Monarch, were it to be “run like a business’’, could reasonably be $200. And, those entrusted with running Spicemas “like a business’’, would have to do the business-like thing and charge a fee of spectators who wish to gather on the Carenage to view the parade of bands. True businesses look for every opportunity to make a profit; they are not in the game to provide subsidies or freebies.
As Charles puts it: “With all the pomp and glitter, carnival is not — and never was — a business. However, business transactions do take place during the carnival season. Carnival is, and will always be, a time of free expression and frolicking. It is an act of volunteerism and national pride; nothing more, nothing less”.
But, one of the areas in which we part ways with Charles is with reference to the “good old days”, and his yearning to return to utilizing Market Hill in the celebration of the street parade at carnival.
He writes glowingly about Market Hill, saying it is “the best stage that nature has offered us”; adding that, “one has to be there to truly appreciate what spellbound audiences experienced back then, in the good old days”.
Everything Charles describes may be true. It is our hope, however, that his plan does not include encouraging today’s mega trucks –rising high in the air with speakers, singers and revellers — to attempt travelling down Market Hill. That is a risky venture; and, only the very brave — or very insane — would ride a mega truck or stand in front of it, as it makes its way down Market Hill.
Then, in our 28 May edition, Caribupdate Weekly published an editorial written by Norris Mitchell of the Willie Redhead Foundation (tWRF).
Mitchell took exception with our observation that there are some Grenadians who, “it would appear, want to save every old building in the city; while others who visit the Metropolis or live there, seem happy to enjoy the modernity of the Developed World, but argue unceasingly for keeping Grenada as a museum piece for the sake of nostalgia”.
As we said before, and we repeat now, we are not against preservation; but we are cognizant that as we develop, we are bound to lose some things.
Mitchell eloquently lauded St George’s and of it being “designed by the French about 1705 and developed by the British”; of it being identified “as a charming Georgian Town in the Caribbean”; he reflected on the many “heritage buildings’’ in the city, and emphasized the need to “marry and harmonise the old and the new, in an effort to maintain our historic and cultural identity”.
We admire, and are indeed impressed, with tWRF’s passion for their cause. Our one wish is that members of the foundation would take a broader look at St George’s and its old buildings; not just a view of their Georgian charm or from their architectural contributions of the British and French.
Our “historic and cultural identify” also includes the many hundreds of Africans who were enslaved, beaten and brutalized, and killed in building the city and in putting up the physical structures.
Let’s remember those Africans, too. While lobbying to save the buildings, the Willie Redhead Foundation also may want to consider erecting a monument in memory of our African ancestors and their contributions to St George’s and Grenada.