The familiar format of the Lions fete is experiencing a shake up this year, but, according to a Lions rep, it’s not indicative of any bad blood between the service organisation and the long-time headliner of its annual Carnival fetes – Oungku and the Red Hot Flames.
Lions Director Leslie Salmon, former chair and current vice chair of the fundraising committee, said they’re still awaiting Oungku’s response to this year’s contract offer but that there is still wiggle room in the schedule to make it work if he decides to come on board.
“He has his plans and Lions has their plans. He has played in and out of Lions in the last year … There is enough for everybody,” Salmon said.
And it would decidedly mean a shared spotlight as Lions is taking a different approach to the fetes this year, one that involves the addition of several other acts and promoters.
“We reached out to different artistes and we’re just waiting on a couple of them to respond,” Salmon said.
“There are several nights at Lions (where) we’re fully involved and several nights (we’ll be renting out).”
The rundown, as it currently stands, looks something like this. Burning Flames and Claudette Peters for the opening night, July 26th; then there’s the Aurora Show with Alison Hinds, Baron, Swallow and Tian Winter on July 27th. Both nights helmed by the Lions Club.
The Sunday night is a rental to Burning Flames – a group consisting of two of the original four foundation members of the iconic band, Onyan and Krokuss. Monday night will be a collaborative venture between Lions and Bruk Way promotions – “a 100% local” event; Tuesday, the venue will be rented to Wayne Hewlett, Wednesday to Burning Flames, with Thursday as another collaboration with Bruk Way, and Friday and Saturday being Lions dances – Tizzy and El A Kru with Burning Flames on the Friday, and Burning Flames “so far” on the Saturday. The usual post-Carnival fete is up in the air.
To date, Red Hot is not in the line-up.
“We made a proposal,” Salmon said. “He (Oungku) did say up front that he had some other interests.”
Given the history – a history that saw the original Burning Flames and later Red Hot drawing swarms of people to Lions for what has become a Carnival staple, Salmon explained that Oungku was approached before anyone else.
“We usually do that because of our relationship.”
There has been chatter on the airwaves about the seeming rift, but Salmon is insistent that people are reading more into it than there is. Contrary to what the talk would suggest, he said, there is no tension between Red Hot and Lions; “He (Oungku) never indicated there were any issues.”
The fact remains though that, at this writing, there is no contract in place.
Explaining the rental concept and the rationale behind it, Salmon said, “In the past, Lions used to control all of the dances. Now, what we’ve decided to do is be more open to promoters … we wanted to work smarter, not harder.”
They, Lions, were burnt out on the schedule; besides, people were clamouring for more variety.
Renting out some of the nights to other promoters makes sense for them, he suggested, as they’re in the fund-raising business, not the promoting business, and this way, they could bring more variety and continue to give back to the community without stretching themselves too thin.
He would not address directly if the Lions had been experiencing diminishing returns from the dances in recent years and how the change-up would affect that, nor would he speak to the specifics of the rental agreements nor the contract offer to Red Hot.
With respect to the latter, he said only, that with what they offered, “he (Oungku) would have been in no worse financial situation than he was in the past … We would not be so crazy to offer less than in the past.”
Salmon would also not say what the target amount was with respect to their fundraising efforts, though we know from previous coverage that their programmes are likely to run them in the region of $200,000 over the next year and they would hope to net at least half of that during the season.
The economy being what it is at the moment, though, Salmon pretty much said they’ll take what they can get and do their best to help people with that. He said that whatever they make goes back into the community; “if we make $5, we give away $5.”
As to if this approach will prove more beneficial in the long run, Salmon suggested that time would tell.
“This is the first year we’re trying (it),” he reminded OBSERVER Entertainment.
Oungku could not be reached for comment.