Tag Archives: Cultural Industries

Junkanoo, Carnival, and Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival

First things first.

Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival is over, and it was a rip-roaring success. As happened in Grand Bahama, in Nassau thousands and thousands of people thronged the festival site, hungry for the new experience, and for the first time ever The Bahamas entered the twenty-first century world of festivals, productions and events. For the first time ever, too, the government of The Bahamas understood and supported the need for real economic investment in bringing something like this off; the committee that was appointed brought local financial and production expertise to the table and ensured that the execution of the event would be top-class; Bahamians and international performers were hosted on the same stage and that stage was beamed to the world; and at long, long last the Fort Charlotte/Arawak Cay arena has been turned into the kind of festival village that has long been dreamed about.

Throughout the world, the twenty-first century has brought with it a hunger for the festival experience, and, together with tourism, the cultural economy is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the world. To say we have been slow to capitalize on that is to understate the reality. There are many festivals throughout The Bahamas. They have been happening for years, but none of them have been able to  tap into the global economy the way Junkanoo Carnival was able to for many reasons. They are run like petty shops; they are overly politicized; they rely too much on government handouts rather than focussing on economic generation; they are poorly advertised; they are treated like backyard get-togethers rather than businesses. This homecoming culture, as one might call it, has not taken advantage of any of the things that the twenty-first century has to offer with regard to linking culture and tourism and participating wholly in the global cultural economy. Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival has changed that game entirely.

In the months leading up to this event, many people asked me for my opinion of Junkanoo Carnival, and wondered if I would speak publicly and critically about it. I did not. I didn’t join the chorus of people criticizing the concept for the simple reason that I fundamentally agree with the need—economically and socially—to shift the government’s focus and investment from old, mid-twentieth century economic activity to the cultural industries. I fought for an event like this when I served as Director of Culture. The festival model that was put in place here is in many ways a mirror image the festival model that was put forward by Keith Nurse in 2004 when he was engaged to lead a task force on the transformation of CARIFESTA. It’s something you will hear me talk about if you download and listen to the podcasts on CARIFESTA, which were produced back in 2008 when we were hosting and not-hosting the festival. Those of us who fought for the inauguration of a festival culture in The Bahamas have all been vindicated. I could not oppose what I fundamentally support.

But I have always resisted the linking of this transition from homecoming culture to festival culture with the name and form of Carnival. I have always believed, and continue to believe, that we missed a major, major opportunity to put the whole of Bahamian culture squarely on the world stage by choosing to make our mega-festival in the image of the Trinidad carnival rather than studying the ways in which Carnival were monetized and working out how we could do that with Junkanoo.

I am not convinced by many of the reasons spouted to justify spending money to bring in Trinidadian consultants to produce a cookie-cutter event. No one has yet explained to me to my satisfaction why it was necessary to import a Trini-style Carnival (when we could have turned to Brazil, whose Carnaval is even bigger and more lucrative than Trinidad’s, and whose production is far closer than to what exists in Junkanoo today) rather than investing in the time and energy required to make Junkanoo the centre of the experience. Now I have worked with Junkanoo for almost all of my adult life, and I know as well as anyone who has done so how unbelieveably difficult it is to work with the Junkanoo community; how obstructive that community can be; how unreasonably protective they are of their vision of Junkanoo; how ignorant many of them are of the history and significance of what they do; how petty their differences; how slow they are to change.  Any one of these arguments would have brought agreement from me; but I still would have demanded that the new festival at least consider ways in which our own aesthetic and traditions could be honoured, rather than supplanted by those of another territory. But the ease with which our leaders were able simply to import a ready-made festival was troubling, to say the least.

The whole process behind this festival revealed, once again, how deeply people who sit in positions of authority in our country distrust what is ours, how ready we are to push aside what is vibrant and indigenous when it is unformed and messy in honour of what is foreign and nicely packaged. What we did with the festival itself is akin to what we do with our houses, our fruit, and, in general, our national development. We build Florida boxes that hug the ground, have no cross-ventilation, and which bake in the heat and flood in the rains, when he have a perfectly good vernacular architecture that developed to handle our environment. We buy mangoes and avocadoes and bananas and oranges with “Dole” and “Sunkist” and other US stickers on them when the same fruit are growing in our back yards and on our islands; and we have come to regard the solution to all of our local issues as being the outsourcing the problem area to the most convenient foreign direct investor.

Countries don’t grow by outsourcing. Corporations may do so, but citizens are not commodities. And cultural expressions are not interchangeable. What is most troubling about the whole exercise is the narrative that has emerged, that local expressions of culture cannot be monetized, that Junkanoo cannot be improved, that Junkanoo has “served its purpose” and needs to move over to make room for Carnival. This discussion, this argument, which I have seen flourish on Facebook in too many places to be believed, is part of the reason I am weighing in on this now, after the fact.

Let me be quite clear here. I do not believe for one moment that the reason this weekend was successful was because we were celebrating Carnival and not Junkanoo. The greatest success took place at Da Cultural Village. Even though many people took part in, and enjoyed, the Road Fever, the real achievement lay in the hosting, the production, and the presentation of the concerts on Fort Charlotte and Arawak Cay. The real value of the mega-festival lay in the promotion of Bahamian music, and in the development of our event management skills. It was connected also to the recognition/admission/understanding, at long last, that we exist as part of a wider pan-Caribbean world and that our music has a place alongside it on the global stage. The success that was achieved lay in the marriage of industrial standard production values—and international-style expenditure to achieve those values—rather than in any shift to the celebration of Carnival. Let us keep that in mind as we carry this discussion forward.

But let me be equally clear. The most disturbing thing that has come out of the weekend has been the fact that we have now set the carnival in opposition to what is ours—and that to do so, we have spouted the most arrant nonsense about carnival, Junkanoo, and what they mean to us. I have seen people try to argue that Carnival and Junkanoo are basically the same thing. I have seen people suggest that for us to move on from Junkanoo to Carnival is some sort of inevitable cultural evolution, in complete ignorance of the cultural evolution that has got Junkanoo to where it is today. Rather than incorporating the Carnival as a celebration of our Caribbean connections, which we could have done to the same effect, we have set up an opposition that pits Junkanoo against Carnival.

Finally, here is my deepest concern of all. Much has been made of the fact that a study that I oversaw has found that Junkanoo does not turn a profit. People who have never looked at that study, who have clearly never even heard me explain what that study did and showed have been all over the airwaves using that study to justify why we should invest in Carnival and not in Junkanoo. We have bought into the idea that Carnival is an economic engine for development and Junkanoo is a drain on the public purse. I will go into far more detail about that study in a later post, but let me just say this: Carnival could not have happened the way it did this year without the participation of the Junkanoo community; their artistic and costuming expertise was hard at work in many of the Carnival companies. Many designers and builders participated in Carnival as a means of making money out of the event, as a means of turning what they do every year for love and the nourishing of their spirits into a means of making a living because they have not been afforded the opportunity to make that living out of Junkanoo. Whether Carnival offered them the economic returns that it promised has yet to be seen. For me, the real value of this event will lie in its ability not only to allow at long last the chance for musicians, dancers and producers to make a living doing what they love, but also to bolster the growth of Junkanoo, a festival that we Bahamians have already developed. And that success still remains to be seen.

 

What it costs to make theatre in Nassau, Bahamas

People have been asking, as they do, what makes it cost so much to put on a theatre festival. It’s a question we come up against a lot, whether it’s asked in a straightforward fashion or whether it’s behind some other question or assumption, such as the one I was asked outright last year: “Why can’t you afford to pay the actors just a little bit–say $50 a day–for their participation?”

Part of the issue may be that these people see that we’re selling tickets for our productions and make the assumption that the revenue we earn from that not only covers our costs but makes its way into our pockets as well.

Hold on. I’ll be right back. I’m laughing too hard to see the screen just now.

OK, I’m back. And my laughter has been replaced with perplexity. After all, we all see the world from our own perspective. Maybe they–people, you, whomever–think that theatre is just about getting up on some empty stage somewhere and throwing out a few lines. How much can that cost anyway? And to top it all off, you’re selling tickets! Pure profit! Why can’t you share a little?

I can only speak for myself here, but I’ll try and break it down.

When Ringplay Productions, our theatre company, or Shakespeare in Paradise, our theatre festival, prepares to put on a play, the first thing we do is choose a play. We like to do so based on some agreed-upon criteria. For Shakespeare in Paradise, it’s either a Shakespeare play we haven’t yet done, or it’s a piece that we believe will speak to our audiences. Shakespeare in Paradise is dedicated to the production, preservation and celebration of Bahamian, Caribbean, African-American and African diaspora works because there aren’t many theatre festivals out there that have a similar focus, and because the vast majority of our theatre scene in Nassau is introspective, focussed on current affairs and local issues. We seek to fill a gap.

So, back to basics: we choose the play.

Most times it’s written by someone else. Many of those times, then, we have to pay for it. That’s right! Plays are not free! Playwrights get paid royalties! and so that’s the first cost we have to consider. It’s a relatively minor cost, and is often calculated based on type of production (professional/community/amateur), but normal royalty payments total about $500-$600 per production.

So off the top: $500-$600 in cost.

Next we have to cast the play. To do that we like to hold auditions. We don’t have to, as we could just pick people to be in the play from the people we know, but what would be the fun in that? Or, to look at it another way, that would not be in keeping with our desire to offer experience and exposure to a wide variety of people, so we have to hold auditions.

For that we need:

a space big enough to hold the people who come to audition
copies of the audition pieces
registration forms OR a tablet or a computer to keep track of the people who came to audition
a camera to take headshots
pens to help people fill things in

So before we get any further: another $500-$600 in cost (sometimes that cost can be shared or waived, depending on our access to the audition space).

Once we pick our cast, we need:

copies of the script

If the script is international, we either need to purchase enough books to give to our cast (that’s the strictly legal way) or we need to reproduce it somehow.

In the 20th century this meant taking the script to a copying centre and getting copies made.

In the 21st century this means scanning the script and printing the copies out.

Either way, another $100-$200, depending on the size of the cast.

Then we need to rehearse the play.

For this we need a rehearsal space large enough to enable us to lay out an appropriate set, to encourage actors to project their voices the way God intended people to do before humans invented microphones, and to allow us to block and practice the play.

Rehearsal spaces don’t come cheap. If we don’t have access to an appropriate space, one of two things will happen. Either our rehearsals will not allow us to work in the physical dimensions that we will find on stage, and the final production will suffer and lose us money in missed ticket sales, or else they will cost us an arm and a leg. No, literally. The best rehearsal spaces come at $300 or $400 A REHEARSAL.

And we have to rehearse at LEAST twice a week (preferably 3-5 times a week for at least 4 weeks). Do the math. Rehearsals will cost us in the vicinity of $600-$1200 a week just for the space alone. This doesn’t include the cost of keeping the cast comfortable–i.e. providing at the very least water for them to drink while they are working.

Total for rehearsals: $4800 and up.

So before we even get to the other things that make theatre theatre, we’ve spent a minimum of:

$500 for the play
$500 for auditions
$100 for scripts
$4800 for rehearsals

for a total $5900 before we can even get near to selling tickets.

So what else do we need?

Well, we need a performance space. A rehearsal space is one thing. It needs to be big enough to hold the cast and to mimic the size of the stage. A performance space is quite another. It has to be big enough for the performers and the audience alike. And it has to be big enough to allow us to generate enough money to help us cover the costs we’ve already spent.

So let’s take the best one out there: the Dundas Centre for the Performing Arts.

The Dundas rents its theatre for a $1000 a performance and up.

The “and up” is often non-negotiable, and can run one to another $300 per performance, so the Dundas can cost you $1300 per performance.

Sounds like a lot (and is) but here’s the advantage: for that $1300 you get the basics: 330-seat theatre, parking, lights, sound, security, dressing room, backstage, performers’ entrance, performers’ bathroom. These things sound simple, but trust me, they’re not; NEVER take them for granted if you’re doing theatre in this place!

So if you’re doing a single performance, your costs have gone up to $7200. And you still haven’t started to deal with set, costumes, props, tickets, programmes, or publicity.

So let’s do some more math. Let’s go back to that selling tickets idea. How much would we have to sell tickets for if we want to cover the costs we have listed so far?

If we sell EVERY SINGLE SEAT in the Dundas, we have to sell tickets at $21.81 to cover these costs.

See where I’m going?

Now let’s add in the things that make theatre theatre.

Costumes. These can cost next to nothing if the cast supplies their own clothing, or a couple thousand if we are doing something elaborate, exciting, or unusual. This figure also depends on the size of the cast. A one-person play will cost very little. A large play, like a Shakespeare production or a musical, will cost a lot. Something like 2010’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream cost in the ballpark of $2000 for costumes, as every cast member had to be clothed in a particular way. Something like 2012’s Merchant cost about $200, as the cast all wore street clothes. Let’s pick something fairly modest that gives us some room to play with: let’s say costumes cost $500.

Props. These, too, can cost next to nothing if borrowed or donated. But some things have to be bought, like fake knives, or anything else needed to create special effects. So let’s say another $200.

Sets. These are non-negotiable. Every set costs money. Some cost more than others. Ours cost between $1000 and $6000, so let’s pick a mid-point: $3000.

Lighting and sound. If we’ve invested in the Dundas, these come built in. We will have to pay for lighting and sound operation, but these are included in the cost of $1300. If, on the other hand, we have chosen another space, we are going to have to invest here. An adequate lighting system (something that lets the audience see the cast’s faces) can be rented for $2000-$3000, but if we want more (which we rarely get) the cost goes up. So let’s pick $2500.

In theatre, microphones shouldn’t be necessary for ordinary plays. For musicals, that’s a different matter, but in a play, the actor should have developed the ability to project her voice so that the audience can hear her no matter what; so we shouldn’t need microphones. But we will probably need sound effects, music and so on. A basic sound system that provides that can be $200-$500. Let’s say $250.

So where are we now?

We’ve just added another $6550 to our $7200.

Our little play is now costing us $13,750, and we haven’t got to publicity, programmes or tickets yet; forget paying personnel.

So let’s go there now.

Programmes can cost as little as a few hundred for paper, toner, and the printer or photocopier to duplicate them, or as much as $9000 for a full-cover printed deal. Our festival programme costs us a lot to produce and we have never paid less than $5000 for it. When we were doing one-off shows, though, we would run our programme off on a laser printer. That cost us about $150-$200. Tickets, though, need some investment. They are, after all, the things that make you money. Local printers can print tickets at about $400-$1000 these days, depending on how many you need (or you can order them from abroad, which looks cheap but costs something to bring them in — either customs at the border or a plane ticket to get them here). So let’s figure in another $1000 for programmes and tickets combined.

We’ll need somewhere to sell the tickets. Some people use ticket outlets, which may donate their services or take a little in commission. Others, like us, use a stationary box office. That costs us money in both rent and personnel. So let’s add in another $2000 for the box office.

And finally, publicity! There are all sorts of ways to get the word out there, but know this: the size of your audience depends very much on the quality of your marketing and publicity. Facebook does a lot, but does not do the whole job. The very best form of advertisement is television. For those who can afford it, cross-channel marketing (in the old days it was a commercial on ZNS during the news) is worth the investment — but what an investment! If you want to sell your tickets, you have to invest several thousand right here. Let’s be kind and add another $2000 to our pot.

Total cost of our production with ONE performance only: a cool $18,750.

And that’s being conservative in our estimate.

What does that come out to if we have to make all our money back on ticket sales then? How much will we have to price our tickets?

Our tickets have just gone up to $56.81 a head WITH FULL OCCUPANCY.

So what if we added in the suggested $50 per person per day? What would our costs be then?

Let’s say we’re doing a small play, with a few people in the cast. Let’s say we have a cast of 4. We also have a director and a stage manager. Let’s pay them all the same $50 a day.

Let’s say we have a rehearsal period of 6 weeks with 3 rehearsals a week. Let’s say that, because there are 4 people in the play, everybody has to be at every rehearsal. And let’s say we just have one performance.

The math is 6 x 3 x 6 x 50 = $5400 for the rehearsal period + 6 x 50 for the performance = $300 for a total of $5700.

Our costs have gone up again to $24,450 for a single performance.

Your costs (cost per ticket) have gone up to $74.09 per ticket with FULL OCCUPANCY.

And we never get full occupancy; our most successful productions get about 60% occupancy. So jack the ticket price up again.

Here’s how we make it work.

1) we don’t pay local actors with cash. Yes, it sucks, but we want to keep doing what we’re doing. And we happen to think that there is an exchange of sorts that’s going on. There are no theatre schools in Nassau, and no real opportunity for training; the only way actors can hone their skills is by being in productions put on by experienced people and learning on their feet. So Bahamian actors gain experience and training that they don’t have to pay for. It’s a bad argument, but it’s the only one we’ve got. The alternative is not to do theatre at all.

2) we don’t invest all of the above for a single performance only. Yes, our rents go up when we have more performances, but all of the other costs are one-time investments, and they pan out over time. Once upon a time we would make the investment for a ten-night run; these days we find that we need to do at least 4-6 nights to make the investment worthwhile. Here’s how that pans out:

Extra Rent = 5 x 1300 = $6,500 plus our base cost of $18,750 for a total of $25,250.
Total seats to sell: 330 x 6 = 1,980

NOW for us to cover our costs, the price per seat at full occupancy becomes a MUCH more manageable $12.75, and the price per seat for the expected 60% occupancy goes back to $21.25. This gives us room to work with less than full occupancy, and gives us the ability to offer bulk sales and discounts.

Maybe you’ll get why I was laughing so hard at the top of this article. Pocketing money from theatrical productions is a dream. Covering our costs is the goal. Pure and simple.

That’s how it’s done.

I’ll talk more about this again later, but for now, that’s me.

Day of Absence 2010: Third Response – Investment

If the Day of Absence is really about tourist’s pleasure, if this is
what we really care about, let us at least be honest about it. I
sincerely believe that we should deal with our own cultural hunger
before we worry about how to provide better shows for our visitors.
Confusing the two will eventually bring us right back to the same
emptiness, no matter how much money we throw at the problem.

Ward Minnis, “Trying to Make a Dollar out of Fifty Cents”, p. 7

Now I’m not really sure where the idea comes from that Day of Absence is about the tourists’ pleasure. Perhaps it comes from my own vagueness about the idea, which Ward has very succinctly dissected and served up, but I’m not so sure about it. I’m not so sure because the tourists are rarely in the back of my mind when I think about Bahamian art and culture. I happen to be of the view that we need to create for ourselves, and that visitors will appreciate what we create for ourselves far more than they appreciate what we make for them. For one thing, we know ourselves a little better. Whenever we think we know what the tourist wants, we generally end up holding the wrong end of the stick.

Continue reading Day of Absence 2010: Third Response – Investment

Day of Absence 2010: Second Response – Quality

… are all Bahamian artists worthy of respect?

The simple answer is no. Why should anyone respect bad poetry, bad writing, bad painting or poorly organized festivals? … Allow me to suggest that there are perhaps two reasons why Bahamians, on the whole, have not received much in the way of international (or local) acclaim for their art. The first is that average Bahamians, and the rest of the world, don’t understand us. The other, and more interesting, reason is that we are not that good.

Ward Minnis, “Trying to Make a Dollar out of Fifty Cents”, p. 2

Lest it be thought that by calling for a Day of Absence in honour of artists and cultural workers I’m seeking in any way to recognize those who produce poor work, let me say right now I’m not.* We Bahamians have cultivated the habit of supporting certain cultural endeavours simply because they are produced by Bahamians, regardless of quality. We have suppressed our critical faculties in these arenas, clinging to the idea that (somehow) because we are all Bahamians, we should not point out failures or weaknesses. The result is that a whole lot of sub-standard stuff gets lauded and magnified in our country because we have one standard for Bahamians and another standard for everybody else. The further result of that is that we come to expect sub-standard work from Bahamians, so much so that (whether we admit it or not) the very adjective Bahamian stands for mediocrity. The default assumption about, the knee-jerk reaction to, all Bahamian cultural endeavour is Ward’s reaction — we are not that good.

I want to turn this around. Yes, it’s true that we Bahamians produce a lot of crap and pass it off as “art”. But it’s equally true that we Bahamians produce quite a bit of stuff that is world-class as well. Rather than starting from the common default, that we aren’t that good, I want to make it a question. Or rather, two.

Continue reading Day of Absence 2010: Second Response – Quality

Day of Absence 2010: First Response – Clarity

The critique(s) offered by Ward Minnis about the Day of Absence concept on his blog, Mental Slavery, and on Bahama Pundit, are both comprehensive and impressive. And he’s right, in several places. Particularly when he writes

Her Day of Absence clouds over and conflates many different and unrelated ideas while advancing an awkward historical agenda and a cumbersome theory of cultural development. It is political and apolitical, about something and about nothing, clear and blurry, all at the same time.

he’s got a point.

So I figure that if I’m going to begin to answer him, I’d better make my assumptions clear. I’m not so convinced that the ideas that Day of Absence floats are either “different and unrelated” or entirely deserving of the adjectives “awkward” and “cumbersome”, but that could just be me. What I will admit is that the way in which the concept was presented mashes together all sorts of concepts in what could be read as an unholy mess; and so the first part of the response will attempt to address this issue and to clear a couple of ideas up.

Continue reading Day of Absence 2010: First Response – Clarity

Day of Absence 2010: Introduction

Well, it’s that time again.

What time? you may ask. Because it’s not like this is a regular occurrence, a public holiday so to speak, or anything grand or exciting. But the new year is a-coming in, and February is nearing, and it’s time for me to observe the Day of Absence once again.

Now for those of you who weren’t around, who didn’t get the memo, or who really weren’t aware, the Day of Absence I’m talking about is a day set aside for us to remember and recognize the work of artists and cultural workers everywhere. Of course, I’m a Bahamian, and I live in The Bahamas, so it’s a day to remember and recognize Bahamian artists and cultural workers, who go largely unsung, unnoticed and unremembered, and who are generally assumed not to exist in this nation. But it’s not exclusively for Bahamians. It’s for anyone who has ever taken art, the artistic and creative impulse, for granted.

The date is February 11. It’s my date, and I chose it. Last year this time, when I announced the concept, I did so in a political fashion, and, borrowing the idea from Douglas Turner Ward’s play of the same name, asked people to imagine a world without art, without artists.

Continue reading Day of Absence 2010: Introduction

On the need for cultural capital – Richard Florida on Montreal’s Creative Class

I’ve already blogged about why I think that our government’s cancellation of CARIFESTA was a bad idea. (I think the word I used was “terrible”). Now the rumours I am hearing about the future of Bahamian culture and its development are as bad or worse. Rather than serious investment in the development of our cultural identity, “economics” appear to be inspiring the exact opposite — the dissolution, real or effective, of the Cultural Affairs Division of the Government of The Bahamas.

Now there may be not much wrong with a government’s decision to gut the only agency that is even vaguely (if poorly) equipped to deal with cultural development. At the very least, it moves us one step away from the hypocrisy that has inspired cultural decisions throughout the 21st century (lots of lip service paid, no money, personnel, or real plans to back it up) and allows the Bahamian people to see the true value of our culture and identity to the people who we have elected to make decisions for us. There is something to be said for ending the pretence; honesty is good, and encourages honest decisions.

However, it betrays once again what the cancellation of CARIFESTA made clear: that our politicians and our leaders, the people who make those decisions, have no comprehension whatsoever about the world, about history, or about what will keep our nation successful.

Just in case people think I’m making this stuff up, here’s a little something-something from Canada, where the citizens have sussed it out better than we have. (The highlights are mine).

Continue reading On the need for cultural capital – Richard Florida on Montreal’s Creative Class

On Culture, CARIFESTA, and the Bahamian Economy, Part I

It came to my attention last month that our government was planning to postpone, once again, the hosting of the Caribbean Festival of Arts, if it had not yet done so. Announcements to that effect would be made very soon, I was told. The fact that such announcements have not yet been made may make this post obsolete. I rather doubt it, however.

It should be no surprise to anyone at all that I think this is a terrible idea. It’s not just because I would like to write for a living and make that living in the country in which I grew up. It’s also because it’s flying in the face of what international agencies focussed on development economics suggest is the place of culture in that development.

For those of us who don’t know, or who haven’t noticed, the world has changed. As I write, indeed, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, the US President is opening the door for negotiations with Cuba, which, as we all know, is the only viable competitor for The Bahamas’ prosperity in the Caribbean region. In fact, it’s possible to argue that the only reason The Bahamas has maintained its supreme position in the region has been because the fifty-year long US embargo of Cuba, has coincided with the latest Bahamian boom. But now, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is visiting Cuba, and the Obama administration is making very clear noises that the embargo will soon be lifted.

At the same time, for the first time in almost twenty years, the Bahamian government’s plan for prosperity — foreign investment, foreign investment, foreign investment — is not bearing fruit. Why not? The reasons are various. Perhaps the biggest is the reason Barack Obama himself gave for changing the way the USA has done business for the past generation or so — that trickle-down economics, or the spreading of the wealth accumulated by the rich and mighty — does not work. It no longer works in the USA, which is the greatest nation in the world; and it has not worked in The Bahamas as an engine of development for a country that has not yet invested in itself.  Oh, it has done well in providing a couple of decades’ worth of get-rich-quick money for a smattering of people. But as we are noticing, where the sharing of wealth is dependent on the goodwill of the greedy, little gets shared. And so our current “wealth” is almost wholly dependent on the goodwill of the foreign investor, who is interested in the people of this nation only as workers — as block-layers, lifeguards, toilet-cleaners, cooks, drivers, or middle managers who have no ability to affect or shape company policy.

Continue reading On Culture, CARIFESTA, and the Bahamian Economy, Part I

Another Reason Why We Need our Artists

Bahamas Suffers While Jamaica Rocks

Posted by sally 1 day 23 hours ago (http://www.jamaica-gleaner.com)
Category: travel

Jamaican Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett has announced a 3.4 per cent increase in visitor arrivals for the month of January, compared with the same period last year.

Bartlett said the 138,000 tourists who visited the island last month were the largest number of visitors to vacation in Jamaica in the month of January… in any year.

The minister was addressing journalists during a press conference at the Ministry of Tourism on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston on Wednesday.

Bartlett credited the growth to the staging of the annual JAMAICA Jazz and Blues Festival held last month, as well as the intense advertising, marketing and promotion campaign that the ministry had embarked on in recent months, especially for the start of the winter tourist season.

Bahamas News Center, my emphasis

This is no surprise at all. All studies about the creative industries, festivals, cultural activity and tourist development indicate that a failsure way of driving tourists to a destination is by creating a purpose for them to visit. Angela Cleare calls it the “pull” factor in tourism — giving people a reason to visit. The Bahamas has for decades relied on “push” factors — the need/desire for North Americans to escape the cold. Our tax money has not been used to develop any real reason for tourists to come here. Instead we have been lazy, relying on foreign investors, on natural beauty, and on geographical closeness to profit by default.

The above news story shows the result. But a word of caution to those government officials who think that they can develop such festivals without the participation and buy-in of the cultural community: you can’t. The Atlantis model isn’t sustainable. Our greatest strengths, and our greatest draws, are those things that can’t be found anywhere else. Without the people who know this stuff, who can tell it from the ersatz and the fake, all attempts to duplicate the above success will fail.

See, people? I’m not making this stuff up. Studies show that culture is a major driver of the 21st century economy. And we have not invested in it at all.

Further links of interest may be found below for those who are willing to do the research. The numbers say it all.

Let’s work together to turn our economy around in The Bahamas — the twenty-first century way. No more development by plantation, thanks very much; let’s take the wheel and drive our leaders where we want to go.

An answer, maybe, to Rick

Guyana Providence Stadium: Guyana – Rambler on the benefits of Carifesta

So please, El Presidente could you arrange just one more week of freeness, dancing and drinking? You know as a Moscow trained economist that this splurge of government spending, (you take $500 million of taxpayer’s money out of the economy and send it right back in) is not the zero sum game it would appear on paper. It multiplies throughout the truly long lasting, productive sectors: beer, rum, hair salons, boutiques and Red Dragon.
And what a shining example of public/private partnership, the mega concerts were. For example, you invited the company that imported soda pop/beer to hold a concert for which people had to buy the same soda pop/beer to receive a ticket. This demonstrates how even-handed you can be even as your investigation into the customs scam grinds to a halt.

The performers stay in the hotel you helped finance with our money and thereby reduce the hotel’s interest-free loan in a way that is impossible to verify.
Then you get the newspaper whose owners your government gave illegal tax concessions to, to join an unquestioning cheerleading chorus for Carifesta along with your personal TV and radio stations.

Let’s not even mention the Chronic, which ignored everything else in Guyana for ten days as it entered the magical world of Carifestaland. Not even the killing of those criminals – what are their names again? – could crash their party.

No wonder it was a success. You proclaimed it was a success, the biggest ever… like your budgets, your tax revenues, and you were everywhere, omnipresent: you quarrelled with Walcott, avoided auditors at the Grand Market, addressed the gospel fest, declaring the country was in safe hands …you meant your hands of course, not God’s. Ha ha silly us!

And the crowds! The multitudes came out for you, for your country. After all 30,000 people at the Banks Ultra Mega Concert-to-end-all-Concerts can’t be wrong! And in the process, they made the PNC look like fuddy-duddy party poopers.

The point, though, is that it didn’t have to be government-funded only.  My point was that the demand for such events is high, and is worth money.  Governments don’t have to make everything free to make something economically viable; in fact, governments often destroy the economic viability of cultural events by too much interference.  Take Junkanoo as an example.

We would do well to pay attention.