Celebrated mas’ man Peter Minshall appeared on TV6’s Morning Edition today and was, as always, riveting to watch – as much for the timbre of his voice and poetic expression as for his ability to not mince words. And he was certainly not mincing them this morning, as he weighed in on the issue of the Savannah (the traditional centre for Carnival shows) and the government’s plans to demolish the Grand Stand and erect, in its place, a National Carnival Centre (which, ironically, will probably be designed and built by the Chinese).
According to Minshall, who claims to have had an audience with the Prime Minister on
the subject, the whole thing is tantamount to building a coffin for Carnival, which he believes is “almost dead” – at least in its current form. Instead of a massive structure that contains the mas’, which, by definition is unbridled and free-spirited, Minshall suggests erecting a series of state-of-the-art tents, “as modern as modern can be” that can be erected and dismantled each year, leaving the Savannah free to be what it was intended to be outside the context of Carnival: a beautiful green space, “peopled by trees”, for every citizen to enjoy. The tents would billow with movement, mimicking the actions of the masqueraders, allowing people (spectators included) to move about without restriction, which is how mas’ was meant to be experienced in the first place.
“The Savannah stage has done so much harm,” says Minshall. It has evolved to suit the needs of the bigger Carnival bands (i.e.: commercialism), and in the process, has “cut out the light for anything small to grow.” As the big bands got bigger and made more money, the expression became more shallow, to the point where costumes are now no different from Las Vegas showgirls. “We have sold our soul,” says Minshall sadly, as we pay homage to “the cheapest of the cheap: American standards of entertainment.” T&T Carnival has become a celebrity thing and mas’, in its purest sense, is not about celebrity. In fact, it’s the antithesis of it.