Carnival, I love. Wining and jamming are alright but the unity, the love, the creativity is what dreams are made of. Trinidad and Tobago is already naturally a melting pot of cultures on a regular day, imagine the entire world descending upon our shores for a two-day street festival.
Once harnessed, Carnival can be the catalyst we need to diversify our economy which is key to long term economic sustainability as a country. Other Carnival parades would often be one route and exist in one or two places. In Trinidad Carnival is a mood, a fever. Not just a street parade in one town. Carnival is everywhere and in every city, there is a J’ouvert and a parade happening simultaneously.
For the sake of this piece, Carnival refers not only to the two-day festival – Carnival Monday and Tuesday but to the season as a whole which comprises of hundreds of fetes and events. Four of these I host with my team at EEEmpire. Writing this was personal for me because I was asked by Sinead Ellis, who has been around my events since 2017 if my business will survive. She admonished that businesses tend to die and appeared concerned questioning what I would do to survive.
The ONLY thing that can truly tell if there is going to be a Carnival in 2021 is time. We have to wait and see as no amount of panicking and despair can help. We must also accept that in every crisis there is always opportunity. In an article published yesterday by the Sunday Guardian, Raffique Shah encourages all to grab these opportunities as there may never be an ‘offer’ like this again. Panicking about no Carnival in 2021 is similar to worrying about milk possibly spilling in the future based on an unstable environment. Accepting this will allow us to address the environment and respond.
2. Imagine the new normal and prepare for it
Prepare for the worst and expect the best. This age-old adage is very applicable in 2020. Professor of Social Innovation and Design Thinking, Dr Lesley-Ann Noel, who lectured me while pursuing my Masters in Innovation, presented a hypothetical scenario. What if Carnival 2021 can proceed but the twist is we must still maintain our social distance? How can our service or product adjust to being as nimble as possible? What if promoters, suppliers and artistes find a way to split proceeds instead of charging each other? What would we do if we can’t import anything? What would we do if we had to design our own costumes?
Think of your specific scenario and plan for it and engage in “table topping”, which is an exercise to manage responses to the crisis. The conversation, a media outlet written by academics and researchers encourages planning for “slow or fast recovery, weak or strong demand, local or global re-openings. Such exercises may involve mapping issues, discussing implications and developing strategies.”
There is good news! Digital content does not replace our desire for live entertainment. Entertainment is a need according to “the Truth about Entertainment” written by McCann’s Truth Central. 73% of Millennials think that the world would be a better place if people went to live entertainment more often.
3. Rethink design
Often we would be so accustomed to a norm that we herald it as the greatest – not because it is – but because this is all we know. To design for this new normal we must end thinking of the future as another season where we are going to do the same things. Everything prior to 2020 is now BC – before corona.
Barriers to entry are being broken down and now DIY solutions for costume and Carnival design may become more culturally acceptable.
Real talent is being able to create within time constraints and material limitations. China’s manufacturing industry was adversely affected after the recession in 2008 however they re-appropriated their industry to survive independent of the outside world. We have to rethink everything, quoting Dr Noel, this includes “The way we govern, travel, teach, manage finances or shop…every single service that we use today has to be re-designed because the world will never be the same.”
4. Innovate. Forget everything you know
It might be stormy now, but it won’t rain forever. Adding to this, the rain will allow for growth if we are prepared. We have a responsibility to be confident in our own ability to innovate as a people. We have many examples all around us.
A video goes viral about a drive through rave and a couple weeks later Xperience Fete launches this:
EEEmpire usually hosts Barbahol, a BBQ Festival and Fete combined. For 2020, this has morphed into Barbahol to Go.
We have been innovating, especially in the event sector for many years. Trust in us event practitioners to generate new ways of entertaining all as our livelihood depends on it.
The Economist says the companies at the cusp of being on the cutting edge are local and not global. Local companies are able to feel needs and produce solutions that work.
More good news. We are in this together. No money or experience will save a company from the effects of COVID-19. Now artists can connect with marketing, public relations and branding students and graduates. The most shared article which proclaimed the next Carnival may be in 2022 had one sentence that stood out to me. It was the encouragement to “Engage a new generation of creative minds, technologists and policy enthusiasts, whose unique perspectives may very well be integral to its success.”
Simon Baptiste, the new director of the International Soca Monarch and seasoned event planner and artiste manager aptly said: “There is strength in unity and it is important for us to channel our creative talents”. I echo his sentiments and maybe now that the playing field is levelled and no one is rushing anyone’s ‘date’; we can have a more collaborative approach. Connecting extends to the consumer who will guide our process.
6. Reminisce and learn
Gratitude is a must. Do not just sing it, believe it. Trinidad Carnival IS the only Carnival in 2020. Missed it? Well, we have years of history, good times and cultural heritage to fall back on. These serve as a reminder that the good times will return. Maybe never in the same format, but as the world changes, we can ride the wave or be pushed down by it. In 1973 Trinidad Carnival was postponed due to the Polio outbreak, taking 10 lives.
The Trinidad Guardian reported that during the period “1960-1985 there was a vibrant garment industry in T&T”. From garment manufacturing to emerging designers we have had major prior success in the creative sectors. We can learn from our past.
Not running a business? Need to play a mas? Here is a playlist of my Carnival videos which is as close as you can get to Monday and Tuesday until further notice:
Ken Sambury is an innovator, event architect and brand strategist. Determined to carry the torch to help us see our way out of this pandemic, he brings his wealth of experience hosting fetes, managing Soca Artiste and managing staff for 10 years. Ken’s academic background in Journalism & PR (AAS), Communications (BA) and Business Development and Innovation (IMBDI) and is convinced his ideas can change the world. You can find him working on his multiple enterprises: kensambury.com, definestudios.co, eeempire.com and weislandgames.com
First published on May 25, 2020 on kensambury.com