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The Soca Drome may be a central part of Carnival 2019 as the National Carnival Commission (NCC) moves to incorporate the Jean Pierre Complex parade with the mainstream mas.
NCC chairman Winston "Gypsy" Peters shared this detail with Sunday Newsday as he addressed the perennial concern about routes for Carnival bands. Peters said the issue has been a talking point for the NCC for some time but details are yet to be finalised.
“What we are finalising is whether we are doing an extension of the route all the way to St James and then turn around to go through the (Jean Pierre) Complex with the Soca Drome. The Soca Drome is going to be incorporated into the Carnival.”
Soca Drome is managed by several large Carnival bands.
Peters said if the parade route is extended, it would accommodate more bands so the congestion could be cleared up. Carnival takes place on March 4 and 5.
“If the route is one mile and you have a lot of congestion, if you extend it by another mile, it means you can accommodate more bands on the route with a different kind of freedom.
“We have to understand the same routes we are playing on now are the same routes that our great-grandfathers played on in the 1930s.
“But today, one band probably formed the whole of the Carnival that they had at that particular time.”
Peters reasoned that despite best efforts, there would be some congestion.
“What we have to do is find ways to ease it so that visitors and locals can have an experience they will enjoy.
“There will always be things to complain about but you will have less things to complain about."
Tribe bandleader Dean Ackin welcomed the move to incorporate the Soca Drome into the parade route for mas bands, but said the idea was still in its teething stage.
"We have had preliminary discussions with them (NCC) and we promised to work together," he told Sunday Newsday.
"We still need to finalise the details and logistics to make sure it can work but that is all I can say right now because we have not had any further discussions. "It is really to be fine-tuned and it is all about creating one Carnival."
Ackin said the Soca Drome was always meant to complement the Savannah and other stages when it was conceptualised.
"I am happy to finally see that this NCC administration is seeing the bigger picture."
On Dimanche Gras, Peters said the board and executive have talented members, including himself, with the experience to produce the show and the commission would not be hiring anyone to stage it.
“We have Colin Lucas (interim NCC CEO), Davlin Thomas (deputy chairman) Winston Peters (chairman). You have a whole lot of people who are producers. We have been doing Carnival all our lives,” he said.
Lucas was a soca artiste and former frontline singer with Sound Revolution, Thomas is a theatre producer (as well as North Central Regional Health Authority CEO) and Peters is a former calypso and extempo monarch.
“So, I mean, what else do you need. We need to incorporate other people which we have. But for the first time, the NCC has people who are within the fold of the NCC that are integrally associated with the production of Carnival.”
Peters said given the wealth of experience of some of the NCC members “we could actually direct Carnival as we so choose because we know about Carnival collectively.”
He added: If we look at the collective experience we have inside of there, both at home and abroad, we don’t really need any set of anything.”
This year, the event was produced by Dr Rudolph Ottley, a Carnival researcher and manager of the Divas Calypso Cabaret International tent, at an estimated cost of $1.3 million.
It was titled The Power and the Glory: From Mucurapo Stadium to the Grand Savannah. Last year, the event was produced by musician Carl “Beaver” Henderson. In 2016, the show was plagued with production blunders which prompted then NCC chairman Kenny De Silva to issue a public apology.
Peters said with the establishment of the North Park, the Dimanche Gras would be a show, as the Calypso Monarch and King and Queen of Carnival finals would no longer be the highlight of the event on Carnival Sunday (March 3).
“All of the competitive elements will be taking place long before the Dimanche Gras. And some of the competitors, if they are successful in what they are doing and it fits the bill of what we are promoting in the North Park, then they will be accommodated in there.”
The NCC chairman added: “Because every year, we doing the same thing with ten people in the Grand Stand. You can’t do that. We have to find innovative ways of doing things and that is why we have innovative people (NCC members) to create the things. We are creating new things so that the people would want to come.”
Peters said the people interested in attending the Dimanche Gras can expect a wonderful experience.
“J’Ouvert will start at the Dimanche Gras. People could come to Dimanche Gras with their costumes. That’s accepted. Bring yuh posse and come.”