By Carlena Knight
The founder and leader of a popular mas’ troupe has made a number of suggestions on how the ‘greatest summer festival’ – Antigua and Barbuda’s Carnival — could be improved.
Speaking on Observer radio yesterday, Captain Lenroy Browne of the internationally recognised Insane troupe offered his suggestions after the country did not host its marquee event for the second straight year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Browne suggested that more inclusivity from the various contributors to the event should be sought.
He said, with each aspect of the celebration represented on a committee, this could position Antigua and Barbuda’s Carnival to rival similar festivals regionally and internationally.
“We need more inclusion from the Festivals Commission where you have all the stakeholders coming together to brainstorm how we can make the festival better. I know the Festivals Commission has their team of people but a lot of times I don’t think there is a connection; there isn’t much understanding of the challenges that we have,” Browne said.
“So, you find a lot of times everybody is doing their own thing and doing it at a high level but what if we bring everybody together and understand how much affects bands, how the soca artistes affect mas’, then I have no doubt that understanding the dynamic of the different industries that drive our festival means we can put out a better product.”
He mentioned that with this two-year lull, officials should be taking the time out to properly assess how impactful Carnival is to the country, and by doing so, identify areas that would need to be addressed so that the festival can improve.
“I am not a part of Festivals [Commission] so I do not know what they are doing, but if it is not being done, I think it is important that we use this downtime to review all the different facets of Carnival — how it affects the economy and how we can make it better to compete with the rest of the islands.
“I know over the years that we have had different challenges, whether it be from judges, venue, parade routes, prize money, you name, it and I think it is important that this downtime is used to re-evaluate how important Carnival is to the different sectors of the economy and how we can improve or subsidise certain things,” he explained.
Browne said that once the market reopens, everyone is going to be looking to do something linked to Carnival.
“So, we need to look at our product, the music, the shows whatever, to rival other countries. I think we need to put every effort in place so that when we open up, tourists feel like our Carnival is just like or better than other Caribbean countries.
“The millennials, they just love to party, and people are taking our Caribbean culture and taking it all over in these festivals. So, we have to understand there is an emerging culture that we can benefit from once we have the skill sets and once we can put on a quality festival, a quality product, a quality service, then we will see our hotel rooms overbooked, packing up the mas’ bands and the spin-off is going to be great.
“So, we really have to reflect on our product so that we can rival any. What we want is to have Antigua number one. It may not happen but we might just fall in the top three,” he said.
Where cultural appreciation is concerned, like many others, Browne believes that this matter should be addressed quickly and aggressively so that the history of the nation is not lost.
He spoke to a previous proposal the government had mentioned in starting some culture programmes in schools.
“I believe that all aspects of our culture should be included the school’s curriculum and not only at the secondary level but as early as primary because our culture is the fabric of our society, so once we can inculcate that at the youngest level then we know that we will have a rich culture to preserve going forward. So, the quicker we can start to do that the better for us,” Browne added.