Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / ACTT: Aboud is right, T&T must let ‘Virtual Carnival’ fast-track its digital economy

ACTT: Aboud is right, T&T must let ‘Virtual Carnival’ fast-track its digital economy

“[…] ACTT believes the Virtual Carnival also could be the leverage for the fast-tracking of T&T’s digital economy. With no physical Carnival we will lose 55,000 visitors—but we can gain 55 million pairs of eyes! 

“We will never get a captive audience like this again…”

The following press statement on the possibility of a virtual Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago this year was issued by the Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) president Rubadiri Victor:

Photo: A Tribe masquerader enjoys herself on Carnival Tuesday in February 2015.
(Courtesy Allan V Crane/Wired868)

The Artists’ Coalition of Trinidad & Tobago (ACTT) agrees with Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) president Gregory Aboud that Trinidad and Tobago is abdicating its Carnival throne meekly. 

There should be a symbolic physical Carnival display in the city with Covid restrictions observed, as well as a strong virtual Carnival programme alongside the dressing up and jeweling of the capital city Port of Spain. We must do these things to retain our Carnival throne and declare our national brand as a hemispheric capital of Culture and a global travel destination post-pandemic.

I was one of the early advocates of the idea of the ‘Virtual Carnival’. On the same day the Honourable Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley declared there would be no physical Carnival, I declared ‘the Virtual Carnival is on’, and began aggressively championing the idea in the media for weeks. 

Two days after that statement, NCC chairman Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters declared there would be no virtual Carnival and the NCC would not take part. I believed this to be a mistake and began meeting with the NCC board to convince them otherwise. 

Photo: NCC chairman and former Calypso and Extempo champion Winston ‘Gypsy’ Peters.

For a while, it seemed that the NCC had been convinced [and] movements were being made. However, the effort collapsed internally and the NCC reverted to their chairman’s position. 

Efforts to bring together other Carnival stakeholders also met with fracture because of the lack of a powerful position by the State.

Our team was the first to anticipate and map the possibilities of the Virtual Carnival, working on the tech, programming, concept, platforms, and models—three months before anyone else. 

We spent a lot of time convincing others to get involved. We shared details and convinced many to engage in virtual events. A lot of people are now engaging in Virtual Carnival events because we preached the gospel. 

We’re happy because it means that creative stakeholders are making some money in what could have been a ‘guava season’.

Photo: London’s Notting Hill Carnival was held virtually in 2020 for the first time.
(Copyright Standard.co.uk)

However, the Virtual Carnival is not meant to be a Carnival 2021 placeholder. It also is not simply a promotional event to score profits for a handful of promoters. 

The Virtual Carnival fulfils industrial ambitions for ‘Brand T&T’ and multiple industries herein. It should be a major transformational exercise for T&T’s creative industries. That is the big picture.

ACTT believes the Virtual Carnival also could be the leverage for the fast-tracking of T&T’s digital economy. With no physical Carnival we will lose 55,000 visitors—but we can gain 55 million pairs of eyes! We will never get a captive audience like this again.

The Virtual Carnival is indispensable to any local business that has regional and international ambitions. There are a lot of good individual virtual initiatives going on. Iwer, Kes, Bunji, Sekon Star, TUCO, fete promoters, and others. However I am calling for all to come together with us to make a brilliant singular product.

The Notting Hill Carnival Committee, which staged the prototype virtual carnival last year, expressed shock at the amount of international audiences it attracted. They now will be doing a virtual carnival alongside their live festival! We must think in such industrial terms.

Photo: Soca Kidd is seen during a recording at Abbey Road Studios on 16 August 2020 in London, England, during preparations for Notting Hill’s virtual carnival celebrations. (Copyright Peter Summers/Getty Images)

ACTT sees the Virtual Carnival as only the first of a two-part plan to catapult Brand T&T into new international marketplace stratospheres. The second prong is called the July Generation: a new generation of T&T films, video games, animation, and music for international streaming platforms, to hit the world from July through September 2021. 

The Virtual Carnival provides us with a brilliant opportunity to signal to the international marketplace what Brand T&T is all about. Trinidad and Tobago stands at a crossroads. Let the Virtual Carnival lead us into the global marketplace and the digital future.

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