Excerpts from the feature address delivered by the Honourable Stephen Lashley, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth on the occasion of the Crop Over Sponsors’ Launch at Ilaro Court on Friday, January 15, 2016.
This year’s Crop Over Festival will be significant for a number of reasons – it is expected to form part of Barbados’ year-long celebratory journey in honour of our golden jubilee of Independence; it will be a time to mark another milestone on our cultural landscape, in recognition of our inclusion on that prestigious list of unique and diverse sites designated as having outstanding universal value, when Historic Bridgetown and its Garrison was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List of Properties some five years ago; and lastly we will commemorate a pivotal moment in our history which first charted our course to the freedoms we enjoy today…the 200th anniversary of the Bussa Rebellion.
In this now maturing Free State, our dialogue will be around legacy building – what will we leave for generations to follow in the next 50 years, be it culturally, socially or economically. It is clear that any discussions on redefining this new Barbados must have a focus on our cultural identity and carving out our fit, not just locally, but also in this magnificent global space.
It will be a discourse reminiscent of our history and the tapestry of our cultural heritage bequeathed to us by our great forefathers, ever cognizant of preserving those important traditions that we will take with us on that new path towards a contemporary Barbados.
In that analysis of our cultural landscape, our major Festivals of which Crop Over plays a substantial role, will also be thrust under the microscope with the intention of looking at its evolution and those traditions which we will safeguard.
Any meaningful contributions to that discussion must consider our competitions and their role in the development of the Calypso art form; the representation of Folk within the festival that will continue to keep it relevant to younger generations; the serious discourse about culture at the core of our tourism product, focusing, for example, on our heritage package offerings to ensure that we can maintain our distinguished designation; and of course that age old discussion on the elements of masquerade – solidifying the differences between the Foreday Morning Jam and Grand Kadooment, in addition to challenging the creative geniuses of our expanding Foreday Mornin’ product to innovate and re-present our Folklore.
On the retention of our competitions, speculations have been rampant on the direction for this. The NCF has floated a number of ideas for Pic-O-De-Crop specifically and consultations will be held in earnest with the relevant stakeholders to ensure its continued growth. As the adage goes, change is the only constant and on any product lifecycle, a mature product will at some point go through a metamorphosis to prevent stagnation. The Pic-O-De-Crop competition, as one of the signature or iconic events of the Festival is also key, we believe, to the development of the Calypso art form and so you can be assured of our commitment to any exchange of ideas that will take this product on a new direction for development. For 2016 however, we will have a Pic-O-De-Crop semifinal, with two songs being performed, but this time at a new venue – Kensington Oval. The Garfield Field Sobers Gymnasium complex is scheduled for renovations and so this year, the Pic-O-De-Crop semis and final and for the first time the Junior Calypso Monarch Final will be held at Kensington Oval.
When it comes to the representation of Folk within the festival, some pundits believe that we should continue in the footsteps of iconic groups with strict musical productions. There are also opposing arguments to suggest that the way to keep it relevant to the younger generation is to infuse the genre of Folk into more theatrical presentations. In more recent years the NCF has seen a shift in the demographic in attendance at the Evening of Folk theatre-centric events, but again we are open to more dialogue on the topic of the importance of the survival of our Folk genre when its guardians are long gone.
With sun, sea and sand as features in other ‘exotic’ locations, or major events and archaeological attractions as options for the tourist dollar, we will continue to steer towards a Cultural/Festival tourism product recognising the value of our heritage designation and our festival brand Crop Over.
And as the focus is on the development of a festival tourism product that pits Crop Over at its helm, being able to keep it fresh and unique with varying interests categorised as festivals within a festival, will separate us from competing products defined only as carnivals, not only in the region, but across the globe.
For Grand Kadooment 2016, the status quo of the first Monday in August remains and the Emancipation celebrations are planned for that same day. The NCF’s lineup on the official calendar for the final weekend will therefore include a signature event in recognition of the 50th Anniversary called Monarchs of the Mas’ which will take place on Sunday, July 31st at Kensington Oval. We will move right into the Emancipation celebrations and Grand Kadooment on Monday, and with the additional holiday, we will also gain an extra day for Bridgetown Market on Tuesday.
In recognition of our 50th Anniversary, discussions are in train to incentivize our Calysonians and Designers to compose songs and produce costumes that reflect on our country’s golden jubilee milestone. These incentives/prizes will be announced later in the season when the rules and regulations have been communicated.
To our valued partners and potential partners, as always your commitment to the development of our cultural and creative industries will not only allow us to be strict guardians of our heritage for our citizens young and old, but also to continue to re-imagine and innovate this world class festival on a level that will take your brands to a global audience.
We appreciate your continued commitment to the Festival even when faced with challenges of reducing budgets. The mainstay of this sponsorship has been through the support of a committed few, but I maintain that many benefit from the Crop Over Festival.
In this 50th year of independence, we hope that more will see the significance of growing our Festival brand and will join our family of valued sponsors on a mission to carry Crop Over on the path to a new direction which, like the course for the country on the whole, will focus on the retention and sustainability of the best from our cultural traditions while taking us on that journey to the contemporary Barbados Crop Over Festival.