The head of the umbrella body for mas bands in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has blasted state entities, saying their failure to abide by government policy resulted in some mas bands being unable to produce King and Queen of the Bands costumes this year.
President of Carnival Bands Inc., Hugh Ragguette, told a Carnival Development Corporation (CDC) press conference, on Tuesday, that the Band of the Year competition returns this year, after the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was no Vincymas in 2021 and 2022 because of the pandemic and the Band of the Year competition was among those not held in 2022, when the festival returned.
“… that we manage to do it this year, 2023, is due to the effort of one person and before I go any further, I want to thank Prime Minister Gonsalves for the effort he made in ensuring that the masquerade component will be part of the Vincymas product this year,” Ragguette said.
He said that in the decade before the pandemic, the competition was at a stage where semi-finals had to be held to select 16 costumes — eight kings and eight queens — to compete in the finals of the King and Queen of the Bands
“Sadly, this isn’t going to happen in 2023. We will not even be able to present the eight in the finals — the eight kings and the eight queens — and some people would be happy with that,” Ragguette said.
“We tried our best to find adequate space where large costumes could be constructed. We failed,” he said.
“It is not for the want of trying. But for the fact that some people in state entities — and I ain’t go called no name … — don’t follow the policy of the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; they don’t care about it,” Ragguette said.
“So, if we don’t present eight kings and eight queens come Dimanche Gras show, it is what we could do because of inadequate space. When we made certain suggestions as to how we could try and solve that particular problem, no favourable response from those who are in a position to help.
He said the bands that are able to produce Kings and Queen of the Bands costumes this year will do so.
“They will do their best but we’re gonna feel the absence of some of the larger bands who come with really high-quality competitive costumes.”
While Ragguette praised Gonsalves’ efforts, he said:
“I wish I could say the same for other state entities whose effort in terms of assistance in relation to the masquerade can only be described as leaving a lot to be desired.
“And I strongly condemn those persons who believe that carnival contributes nothing and we could do without having a festival called Vincymas.”
He said there is too much of that feeling in existence throughout the public sector.
“Thank God that many years ago the effort was made to set up a National Lotteries Authority because if that had not been done, believe you me, ladies and gentlemen, there would be nothing called Vincymas,” Ragguette said.
He said 12 masquerade bands will take part in the Band of the Year competition and a 13th band will not be judged.
“This will be his first effort in terms of forming and bringing to the theatrical spectacle his own ideas in terms of Vincymas,” he said of the 13th band.
He said that while 12 bands are competing for Band of the Year, only seven will compete for the Section of the Bands title, to be judged at Steel and Glitter, on July 6.
Ragguette said this is “due to the fact that producing a section to compete in the sections from the bands is no easy matter.
“It takes tremendous outlay of financial resources and you want to put your best. Unfortunately, it’s not always possible for a designer to go on to put out his best for a product that’s gonna cost 35 to 40,000 dollars for returns of a few thousand dollars in monies.”
Ragguette described Mardi Gras, slated for July 11, as “a real theatrical spectacle.
“And despite the efforts that some people make to denigrate it, you’re not going to succeed,” he said.
He said he is hoping that “the traditional mass could return and I hear noises in that direction.
“And when I mentioned traditional mas. I’m talking about the Indian, the African, the original type of mas. We won’t have any traditional mas in Mardi Gras this year. What we would have is the contemporary creative mas.”
He said the contemporary creative mas emerged after 1972 and has continued down to this day.
“Again, you’re gonna see costumes of quality, costumes not seen anywhere else in the world,” Ragguette said, referring to this year’s festival.