Pan Association to propose community pan development project to government

President of the Antigua and Barbuda Pan Association, Patrick ‘Stone’ Johnson
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By Robert Andre Emmanuel

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The country’s Pan Association is set to present the government with a plan to further assist development of steelpan in communities around the island.

Following the breakthrough in talks between the government and the Pan Association on Sunday, the two entities signed the 2024 Carnival contract on Monday, paving the way for the popular Panorama show to take place.

Minister of the Creative Industries, Daryll Matthew, said that part of the discussions that led to the breakthrough was the assurances from the government that the Pan Association would receive support for a community development plan.

“We went through a lot of things, not only the dollars and cents issue, but several other things that we believe were important to the staging of Panorama for Carnival, and just generally for the growth of the pan fraternity in Antigua and Barbuda.

“I can share that one question that was asked was whether or not the government would be prepared to support a programme to develop pan in a more substantial way within the communities, and we asked the Pan Association to put forward a proposal that we can look at once the Carnival festivities are over to see how we can really facilitate and aid in the growth and development of pan,” Minister Matthew said.

Pan Association President Patrick ‘Stone’ Johnson said that the proposal to be presented to the ministry will also look toward aiding many of the current bands within local communities in securing their own facilities for practice and storage of their equipment.

Many social media users criticised the Pan Association for what they felt was last minute haggling over money, which put the Festivals Commission in a difficult position, leading to the near cancellation of this year’s Panorama.

However, Johnson said that talks over the association’s concerns began months prior and had the support of a vast majority of his members.

“Listen, at some point in time, you have to stand up for what you want and what you believe—that was just basically it.

“We, as a body, always look at the bigger picture and take into consideration what is best for the art form, and then what is best for the country, so it’s not to say that we waited until this impasse; discussions were always ongoing.

“Maybe the perception out there is that it was only when this came [that we started to negotiate], but we had on board other things to present, but that didn’t come to fruition, so at the end of the day, it was decided by the member bands that this is what we wanted, and this is what we’re going to do,” Johnson said.

He also refuted the notion in some circles that steel bands do not fundraise outside of the Carnival period, noting there are several events that different bands engage in throughout the year, including supporting the schools’ Panorama competition.

He added that the difficulty of seeking sponsorship for steel bands, with many bands competing with themselves and other interests for sponsorships from some of the same companies, is a problem.

“I can assure you from the association and from member bands there is a push, but what happens is that you end up going to the very same persons that everybody else is asking, and then there’s a choice with the corporations as to who they’re going to support.

“I can say that bands have tried, bands are promoting themselves, and bands are doing their very best, but, as you can see, some of the bands are still unsponsored,” Johnson added.

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