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Not Condemning: Whoops, whaps, clap, clap, clap, Tobago Jazz management by voops and vaps

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.”

Photo: Tarrus Riley, whose “She’s Royal” was a mega-hit for him, is among the three headline acts in the 2018 Tobago Jazz Experience.

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.

Photo: Tourism Minister Shamfa Cudjoe (left) and former Tobago House of Assembly (THA) chief secretary Orville London.
(Copyright THA.gov.tt)

 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.

Photo: Tanya Stephens, Jamaica’s dancehall singer who’s in the line-up for the Tobago Jazz Experience 2018

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.

About Dennise Demming

Dennise Demming
Dennise Demming is an Adjunct Faculty Member at UWI, Media and Communications Strategist, TEDxPOS organiser and co-licensee for TEDxPortofSpain and Chairman of the Board at TTTHTI. Dennise, who grew up in East POS, also has a Business MBA and B.Sc. in Political Science & Public Administration and Mass Communications from UWI.

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11 comments

  1. OMG! Read the title of this article out loud, someone here said “And that’s the most amount of Scat and Bebop we will ever get from TJE…” #dead

  2. In comparing TJE to St Lucia Jazz re timing of announcement of headline acts, in relation to attendees, 5 weeks notice and 8 weeks notice is not that big of a difference where planning to attend is concerned. Most people book travel and accommodation long before even knowing who the performers are.

  3. They on shit. Guess they think ppl could fly here on brooms.

  4. I don’t think Mr Leacock really cares too much what happens… as Ms Demming pointed out, it’s not HIS money. The ‘panem et circenses’ spectacle that is Speyside ‘Jazz’ is really what is at stake. There might very well have been (for once!) actual physical rioting or protests if that didn’t happen. I think he’s betting that the ‘faithful’ ‘Jazz’ aficionados who will come ‘no matter who the artistes are and who already have their plane tickets and accomodation booked (that crowd does NOT depend on the boat!) are of a sufficient number to take shame out of his face over what will happen at Pigeon Point. Maybe the THA will give away some free tickets like the Duke family sponsored for Black Panther! I am an interested party and hope Mr Leacock’s gamble ( to really be a ‘gamble’ though one has to have a ‘stake’.. totally unsure what Mr L’s is) works at least partially. In a little less than a month we’ll see. Farley Chavez Augustine Anselm London Kerron Eastman

    • You make a lot of assumptions William. I know factually of many TJE attendees who rely on the sea bridge!
      I won’t consider those who’d come even it it’s a ram goat on stage “aficionados” either. I am appalled at the wastage of my tax dollars! Oh how I wish I could sit on this committee.

  5. Excellent article…great questions!! Unfortunately they will never be answered…

  6. Very well articulated! I agree