Vincy Mas 2020, “as we conceive carnival” has been cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made the announcement on WE FM on Thursday, one day after the Cabinet made the decision.
The cabinet decision followed on the advice of the Carnival Development Corporation (CDC), the state agency that organises the festival, the nation’s largest cultural event.
“So the decision of the cabinet is to accept the recommendation to cancel Carnival 2020 as it has been conceived, as we conceive Carnival, but to leave the door open, depending on the evolving circumstances, for a summer festival,” Gonsalves said.
The festival was originally scheduled for June 26 to July 7, with smaller community festivals taking place in the preceding months.
“People might call it Carnival still but it wouldn’t have, clearly, not as it is conceived with all of these big mas’ bands and the like,” Gonsalves said of the possible replacement for Vincy Mas.
He said that whereas the original festival was a 10-day event, any replacement might be five days long.
“It might be way down in August if the circumstances admit for that sort of a thing because you know, I’ll tell you, you know, when this COVID passes — and I’m knocking wood as I’m talking to you — there is going to be a lot of pent up frustrations, you know,” the prime minister said.
“Already thoughtful people are talking about the psychological damage done during this time and the release that people will want; a catharsis; a cleansing.
“Some may find the cleansing in a spiritual revival and awakening. Some will find it in musical events and festivals. Others will find it in both because there is no inconsistency between a religious revival and a festival by whatever name it goes. Not necessarily inconsistency, I should say,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, in a press release on Thursday, said the Economic review and stimulus package to be presented to Parliament on Tuesday contains provisions to assist persons who are actively engaged in carnival and the cultural industry.
Chair of the CDC, Ricardo Adams had recommended the cancellation of the festival in an April 1, 2020 letter to Laverne Grant, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Culture.
In the letter, Adams said the CDC had been monitoring very closely the progress of the coronavirus disease and its effect locally, regionally and internationally.
He said that with this in mind, the CDC had discussions at the board level with the representatives of the three main components of Vincy Mas — pan, calypso and mas — as well as with some of the other stakeholders in the festival.
He said that after discussions with their membership, the three components — the Youlou Pan Movement, SVG Calypso Association, and the Carnival Bands Incorporated — wrote to the CDC recommending the cancellation of Vincy Mas 2020.
Adams, in this letter, said that the components identify a number of issues that guided their recommendation.
The first was the physical distancing guidelines as recommended by health officials, which means that the preparation and rehearsals for the three components are on hold and will be severely impacted.
This, he said, would significantly compromise the quality of the festival.
Adams also said that rural carnivals and all preliminary competitions would be curtailed, resulting in a significantly reduced build up to the national festival.
Point number three in his letter was that a number of corporate sponsors are or would be financially impacted and have indicated that they may be forced to reduce or cancel sponsorship of component members this year.
Also, the closure of regional and international suppliers has resulted in difficulty source of material for components in a timely manner.
A fifth reason was that the postponement of local and regional academic examinations would impact participation at the junior level of the festival.
The economic impact and the uncertainty of the travel restrictions imposed on regional and international source markets have already resulted in cancellations and are expected to critically impact registration and participation in masquerade bands and reduced attendance at many of the private and CDC organised events.
Adams said that the components felt that the economic impact at the local level means reduced disposable income and that Vincy Mas will not be a priority at this time.
The Vincy Mas components further said it is felt that the excellent international image of St. Vincent and Grenadines and Vincy Mas will be harmed if the citizens want to proceed to play mas and party and appear to be insensitive to the plight of others affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adams said that the CDC board has taken the concerns of the components into consideration and with the continued uncertainty surrounding the trajectory and impact of the pandemic, they support the position of the components.
For its own part, the CDC outlined that there are several persons in the creative industries who are dependent on Vincy Mas as a significant source of income and who would be severely impacted by the cancellation.
The CDC, therefore, recommended that a portion of the identified support measures for the creative industries be focused on support for these persons.
The CDC also said that a number of masquerade bands have begun preparations and incurred expenses including securing the usual cash advances at the National Development Fund.
It said a discussion would need to be held to secure a moratorium on repayment of these advances, where bands have already invested in material and labour, Adams said.
As soon as it’s practical from an economic and social stance, the CDC will seek to create additional opportunities for components to participate in events to whet the cultural appetite of our nation, while providing some economic activity for the creative industry sector.
The CDC said it would use this period to pursue developmental programmes with the components and continue to address its structural reform programme in the areas of capacity strengthening and infrastructure maintenance.
“The CDC will work assiduously on an even more focused marketing strategy for Vincy Mas 2021,” Adams said.
“We are acutely aware of the potential economic and social impacts of the cancellation of Vincy Mas 2020. But we believe that with the continued uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the importance of the health of the nation, we can work with the government of St. Vincent and Grenadines, the components and the stakeholders of Vincy Mas to ensure that we come out of this with a rejuvenated product that can make all Vincentians proud to proclaim Vincy Mas as ‘The Hottest Carnival in the Caribbean’.”