Carnival needs people who know how to run it

By Arnold Auguste Saturday August 31 2013 in Opinion
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By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor

In the August 22, 2013 edition of Share, letter writer Roger Gibbs accused me of heaping “scorn and ridicule on the festival’s management and (adding) more fuel to the fire that consumes all hope for the future”.



Gibbs, of course, was referring to a column I wrote the week before about the Festival Management Committee (FMC), the folks now running the annual Toronto Caribbean carnival.



I would think that “scorn and ridicule” is too harsh a term to describe what I have been doing, but, hey, if the shoe fits…



As to the second part of that statement, about adding “fuel to the fire that consumes all hope for the future”? Wow! That is very dramatic but he gives me way too much credit.



And about not offering “positive suggestions on how the festival’s governance should be improved”, all I can say to Mr. Gibbs is how do you offer advice or suggestions to folks who already think they know everything?



Except that they don’t as the mistakes they continue to make show.



As an acquaintance who has had close contact with the inner workings of the FMC said to me: “The problem with the folks at the FMC is that they don’t know what they don’t know.”



That is troubling. To not know something that has to do with the job one is doing should be of great concern. But, to not know that you don’t know what you need to know? Well, that is really scary.



By the way, it is customary for people commenting on an issue to declare if they have a vested interest in one side or another of that issue. It is referred to as “full disclosure”. Mr. Gibbs, who has been listed as a board member of the Festival Management Committee in its current festival guide, failed in his letter to make that “full disclosure”. Tsk! Tsk!



When the City took the festival away from its founders and owners, the Caribbean Cultural Committee (now, the Caribana Arts Group), seven years ago, there was already 39 years of history from which to learn. The fact that the FMC is making some of the same mistakes that the CCC made and, hopefully, learned from, just showed up the arrogance of its members.



And, by the way, saying that the FMC (or more accurately, the City of Toronto) took the festival away from its owners and founders is not “old tired analysis”, however hard Gibbs and people who think like him would like to believe. It is a fact.



It is also a fact that the Black community is the only community in this country Councillor Joe Mihevc would have dared to do that to. Can anyone see him taking away the Pride parade from its current organizers – despite at least one contentious issue they face every year — and giving it to someone else to run?



But, Mr. Gibbs wants constructive advice, so here goes. First, get rid of the people now running the festival. They don’t know what they are doing and they don’t know that they don’t know so they don’t know how to fix it.



Get people who know how to run a carnival; people who have run carnivals or similar festivals before and know how to think on their feet when things go amiss as they usually do.



Get people who understand this particular carnival, its history, its reason to be, and people who know, for example, simple things like you don’t hold a show on the Saturday night after the parade.



Why? Talk to those who have tried it before and they will tell you why.



Get people who have confidence in their product – the carnival parade – and understand its tremendous value to this city; people who appreciate the work of the bandleaders, designers, costume builders and the masqueraders so much so they won’t sell them short and give away their efforts for small change.



With a festival bringing into the economy each year some $400-million, there is no way the bandleaders should be treated like beggars waiting for the crumbs falling off the table. They need representatives who will represent. They need people who will stand up for the culture and demand respect and serious money from the powers that be, not people who are looking for ways to “wean themselves off of government funding” and, instead, looking for ways to soak members of the public by charging them to see the parade for which they are already paying $400-million.



They need people who will demand respect from the sponsors and money that reflects the millions of dollars in free publicity these sponsors get, not people who will give them credit that is not due to them; like saying the current title sponsor has been supporting the festival from its inception in 1967, which is an outright misrepresentation of the facts.



But that will take people who are self-confident; people who have excellent negotiation skills; people who understand and appreciate the value of what they have been entrusted with and people who take enormous pride in their culture.



Actually, come to think of it, maybe they also need a new board.



How’s that for advice?

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