November 1, 2000

Over the weekend, two columnists referred to certain aspects of last May’s European Pan Festival, chiding organisers of the recently concluded World Steelband Music Festival held here, for their inability to attract large paying audiences to the early rounds or (in one article) providing a festival atmosphere.

Donna Yawching in her Sunday Express column (Taking the ‘festive’ out of festival) alluded to the 20,000 attending the Paris festival, as if that number of people descended upon the Parc de la Villette en bloc. I was there. What really happened was that, while a fixed number of people formed the core audience, much of that larger figure comprised families and transients coursing through the park; some stopping off for a while. Ms Yawching also misunderstood the description given her by one of the Paris festival organisers, who spoke of people being able to walk between the bands and get closer to the instruments and players. She slammed pan authorities here for staging “yet another competition”, as if the Paris experience was any different.

It should be understood that the Paris festival had two aspects: a Pan Picnic on the Saturday afternoon (where bands were located all over the sprawling park and people walked freely between them) and the contest, which was held in one small and defined area on the following day.

At the competition on Sunday, the bands were presented in a layout not unlike the one used at the Jean Pierre Complex, except that no seating was provided for the audience. And because of the space constraint, only three bands were set up at the start. And as one finished playing for the judges, its equipment and instruments were taken down to make room for another orchestra; a process repeated throughout the afternoon until the competition concluded.

Incidentally, the (seven-hour) “over-long event” to which she referred when describing the rounds she attended here, was two hours shorter than the Paris playoffs, which began at 11 a.m. and ended at 8 pm.

The withdrawal of the test-piece for the semi-final and final rounds of the local production, which she saw as possibly “making it easier for our bands to win”, was agreed to by the management of all participating bands and was designed primarily to reduce the length of the event. All of the above information was published in the Daily and Sunday Express between May 25 and last week.

But at least Ms Yawching got the economics right. “It was free. No one paid a cent,” she wrote, praising the Europeans for being able to raise sponsorships. Perhaps her comparison here should have been between the social conscience of corporate entities in Europe and those in Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr Blood, on the other hand, writing in the Saturday Guardian, quoted an unnamed source who claimed to have attended the Paris festival. “You are all truly backward here,” the source said. “When we staged the festival in Paris, you couldn’t get a ticket to buy.” That statement was rendered completely accurate by the fact that there were no tickets on sale. As Ms Yawching concurred, the event was free.

I hold no brief for the organisers of the local festival and indeed, share many of the views expressed by disgruntled patrons and writers, but we must be fair. While the Paris festival was much better organised in terms of logistics, the examples cited by these two influential writers are simply not supported by reality.

Terry Joseph
Express Entertainment Specialist
(who attended the Paris playoffs)

Terry-J at I-Level

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