Trinidad and Tobago


Politics scuttles arts telethon

October 15, 2001

UP to late Saturday night, officials at Trinidad and Tobago Television (TTT) were still of the view that the Telethon for the Arts, scheduled for October 28 was on, although the show's planning committee had cancelled it since Thursday night.

Brainchild of Culture Minister Ganga Singh, the telethon sought to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, through performances donated by this country's top artistes in a 12-hour show at the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain, which was to be carried on TTT.

But with Parliament suspended, a general election proposed for December 10 and his political party's decision-makers distracted by these and other events, telethon organisers were left in limbo.

At Thursday's committee meeting, a decision was taken to postpone the telethon until February 17, 2002, the Sunday after Carnival. Committee sources say sponsors were not forthcoming, a problem they ascribed to the current political situation.

At its July 27 Crowne Plaza launch, Singh, committee chairman Lynne Murray and Junior Minister Winston "Gypsy" Peters were optimistic in predicting success for the telethon. "The Culture Ministry," Singh said, "would match, dollar-for-dollar, every cent realised by this venture."

Murray reminded the audience of the number of top-drawer artistes who passed on during the preceding 12 months (a list that includes Kitchener, Ras Shorty-I, Beryl Mc Burnie, Horace James), some of whom died in penurious circumstances; saying the telethon would help ease similar situations in the future.

But Singh, whose political responsibility to the United National Congress (UNC) will, in the run-up to a general election, command a disproportionate share of each working day, is also burdened by other problems.

The telethon boasted a slew of top-drawer artistes, including Chris "Tambu" Herbert, five-time national calypso monarch Black Stalin, reigning monarch Denyse Plummer, road march champion Shadow, calypso king of the world The Mighty Sparrow, pan virtuoso Len "Boogsie" Sharpe and David Rudder.

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