Promoters not worried about growth in carnival events
This year will be a landmark year in carnival history in Jamaica as four major carnival events are slated to run concurrently over the next few weeks.
Up from the two major events held in 2016 and one in 2015, the 2017 Carnival Calendar is shaping up to be something not to be missed. But with four major events set to culminate in four road marches in late April, concerns have been raised about whether there is enough space in Kingston for the huge spectacle that is expected.
This year, in addition to Bacchanal Jamaica events as well as the Jamaica Carnival, there are newcomers Xaymaca Carnival and Xodus, put on by DREAM Entertainment.
Despite growing concerns about the magnitude of the events and possible clashes resulting from the four major events sharing the same space, event promoters welcome the added competition, saying that the expansion can only spell good for the country's thriving Bacchanal scene.
Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, Ron Burke of DREAM Entertainment, explained that while there would be more hassle especially from the increased number of road marches on the same day, he foresaw no problems when the fÍting begins.
"We will be having our trucks, music, artistes performing, the full hundred, and that's the same day that all the carnivals are happening," he said. "Some of the routes will overlap but we'll start at different points and end at different points. Carnival is not the type of event where people would clash, you know. It's not like a dancehall ting, so we don't anticipate anything like that. It's just for the patrons to sit down and weigh the pros and cons and see who they want to go with, but there is no beef between us and any other bands. Those that have been in carnival a long time as well as those who are newcomers, we maintain a healthy relationship."
Julianne Lee, (daughter of Byron Lee) who will this year herald the return of her late father's brainchild, Jamaica Carnival, agreed. Lee echoed sentiments shared by Burke, calling the development of Carnival in Jamaica as a win for her late father.
"This growth is paying homage to our founder, the late great Byron Lee. He wanted to see carnival infiltrate the streets of Jamaica, and so this is the fulfilment of his greatness, his creativity, and his genius. If you count downtown carnival and inner-city carnival, there are actually more than four carnivals now, but we do not see the increase as competition for our event," she said. "We are very appreciative of these new players and welcome them as part of the growth. Carnival and music are one of the only spaces that breaks down barriers of socio-economic class, race, sex and religion, and so we have to have different organisers that appeal to different target audiences to see to the continued growth of carnival."
She went on to say that the market that exists within carnival is big enough to manage all four events and hopes that each one will be able to stand the test of time.
Adjust to competition
"I believe that persons within the space right now are very smart, responsible people in the entertainment business, and so I do think their models will last a long time," she said. "I believe we all have to shift in time and adjust to competition to give consumers the best, but there is space for everyone to operate and exist without problems. As far as I see it, there are three people to benefit here: the consumers, the spectators, and Byron Lee." Burke agreed.
"I think carnival is one of those markets that has been monopolised for a while, and like with any monopoly, the consumers had to take what they got, pretty much. Now, it (the competition) forces the four bands that have come out to be very creative and very attentive to the patrons so that at the end of the day, patrons are very happy because they now have options."
Both promoters dismissed the view that corporate Jamaica is biased in what events they chose to support, pointing out that they have also encountered difficulties in securing sponsorship. Burke said that although he now has commitments from a few sponsors, gaining their backing was no easy feat, especially with the label of 'new kid on the block'.
"Initially, yes (had problems securing sponsors) because there were sponsors who were like, 'You guys are pretty good, but do you really know anything about Carnival'? But when we went in with our proposal and showed them our plans and they looked at our track record from DREAM, we shattered those doubts," he said. "I would disagree (with the view that corporate Jamaica is biased), and the reason I would disagree is that we just did Magnum Live, and that was title sponsored through a corporate company and that was a reggae-and-dancehall-only event. So it comes down to the track record of the persons as well as knowing what sponsors to target."
"Sponsorship is always a challenge, and entertainment sponsorship is at an all time low and so I don't think there is any bias going on," Lee pointed out. "I'm involved with other events that have nothing to do with soca or carnival, and they are even more supported by Jamaican brands and products. I just think it depends on how you craft your entertainment package to appeal to everyone involved - consumers, promoters, and sponsors."