Last week, on 20 March to be precise, the chairman of the Tobago Festivals Commission, which is responsible for organising the Tobago Jazz Experience 2018 (TJE) made the announcement of the headline acts. That gives patrons less than six weeks’ notice that international artistes Ne-Yo, Tarrus Riley and Anthony Hamilton and Jamaica’s Tanya Stephens will top the billing for the event, carded to come off from Friday 27 April to Sunday 29 April.
And the chairman, George Leacock, had the gall to tell us, with a straight face, that “negotiations are still ongoing” for “another major act (which) will be announced soon.”
You can call it ‘lazy,’ you can call it ‘slipshod,’ you can call it ‘doh care’ or you can call it whatever you like; I call it plain ‘insulting.’ Period.
And I want further to address these three questions to Chairman Leacock: Why do you insult your patrons in this way? Are you and your organising committee so self-assured, so certain that Trinis, your declared targets, will jump through hoops to get to Tobago at any cost? Or is it that, in these hard times, there is a big chunk of taxpayers’ money just waiting to be spent, no matter the outcome?
And the really important question that I have for the chairman is this fourth one: If this was your money, Mr Leacock, would you behave exactly as you have behaved here?
This announcement and this vy-kee-vy approach is indicative of the deep level of fiscal irresponsibility which has been practised by the THA over many years. We’ve almost grown accustomed to the late announcements. However, when you consider the continuing unreliability of the seabridge, of the airbridge—boasts about recent Easter achievements notwithstanding—and the concomitant insecurity surrounding both, this year’s late announcement tells me that TJE 2018 is on the crest of a dangerous wave which is heading for a crash landing on the Pigeon Point shore.
In fact, even the additional funding which has traditionally been squeezed from State enterprises may now be at risk.
As recently as May 11 last year, there was a discussion in Parliament about TJE. You can read it for yourself on Page 120 of the unrevised Hansard of that date. It was noted then that: “For 11 years, this Tobago Jazz Festival has been taking place with no revenue being generated. So every year the THA, and, by extension, the Central Government of Trinidad and Tobago, would spend $10 to $20 million in hosting this event. I think this year (2017), it was $12 million, last year (2016) it was $16 million, and monies have been spent like this over the past 11 years to host this festival with no profits at the end of the day. No profits.
And it was recommended by the JSC that we probably should have the private sector be part of this initiative and take over the Tobago Jazz Festival and make it into a profit-making venture.”
Success in any undertaking of this magnitude is predicated on proper planning and discipline. The Minister of Tourism has identified the successful St Lucia Jazz as a comparator for the Tobago Jazz Experience.
Well, let’s see what qualifies as “proper pause and planning” in St Lucia’s case. This year’s St Lucia Jazz Festival is carded to run from Thursday 10 May to Sunday 13 May, Mothers’ Day. They launched their 2018 edition over four months ago in November 2017 and then announced the performers for their festival on March 10.
By comparison, what we have here in Tobago is, clearly, mere management by voops and vaps.
The Keith Nurse Task Force submitted its report since December 2017. It recommended, among other things, the enhancement of the “selection and procurement process” for engaging performers for TJE. The Tobago House of Assembly accepted those recommendations and agreed to establish a committee to ensure that TJE 2018 was staged in keeping with what the Task Force had recommended.
The fact that, full three months later in March, performers are just being announced is, in my considered view, nothing short of a dereliction of duty.
I point no fingers; responsible people within the relevant organisations will know where the buck stops and where the blame must lie. They simply have to take proper pause and begin to do things merely because it is the right thing to do.
Responsible people outside of the relevant organisations cannot in all conscience support continuing irresponsibility.
So, sorry, Tobago, there’ll be no jazz for this Trini this year.
Not condemning, just commenting.