Community must reclaim Carnival: Williams


De Regulars band leader Michael Williams said at his band launch he wants Festival Management Committee to let Toronto Mas Band Association be free to participate in Carnival on their own terms.
De Regulars band leader Michael Williams said at his band launch he wants Festival Management Committee to let Toronto Mas Band Association be free to participate in Carnival on their own terms.

Unless the Festival Management Committee (FMC) can run Carnival better, it’s time the community reclaimed the event, a veteran bandleader says.

Michael Williams, leader of De Regulars Arts and Cultural Group for the past 35 years said FMC must stop trying to control the Toronto Mas Band Association (TMBA). “What is the mandate of the FMC? Up to this day, we do not know that.

Michael Williams
Michael Williams

“The city gave the FMC the responsibility to manage the $500 million generated during Caribbean Carnival weekend but the FMC in turn has registered it in the name or names of private individuals, thus taking it away from the community,” Williams said.

“The city could not have done this to any other festival, be it the Jews, Italians, Irish or Chinese but they did it to the Caribbean people. Why?

“If they – FMC- cannot run a successful festival, time to give it back to the community.”

Williams said, “We have to be prepared to give full transparency as we strive to be effective and efficient, with a positive outlook.  We have sufficient brilliant and talented minds, people with influence and power to run this Caribbean Carnival.

“The TMBA is in the process of reuniting, rebuilding and rebranding the organization so as to be stronger and better than ever because this is the essence of the struggle.” He appealed for a united front with togetherness being the essence of the issue.

The festival belongs to the community, he said, and whether it’s CARIBANA or any other body it must be capable of managing the Caribbean Carnival and allowed to do so in the interest of the community.

At his band launch last Saturday at Twilight Restaurant highlighting De Regulars creations for 2016 with the theme Images of the Carnival, Williams said TMBA is the architect of the main spectacle, the costume parade which is the main component along with pan and calypso of Caribbean Carnival.

“The heart of Toronto Caribbean Carnival is the costumes, still made by Mas band volunteers in the traditional way.”

He stressed that, given that TMBA is part of the community, Carnival must return to community control, noting that this year 12 Mas bands will present their cultural exposition to the community but on a shorter route than it used to be.

“Decisions were made by the FMC without consulting the TMBA, and that is wrong!” he said of the route change.

The drama and excitement of a Mas band costume launch is essential to telling the story of the Toronto Carnival, Williams said, adding that De Regulars design “is about taking you back through the history of the Carnival, to today in Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and to the future of Carnival.”

Williams thanked Ludmila Moravcikova, the band’s production manager and Anthony Rawson Alleyne, this year’s costume designer, who has been creating and decorating costumes most of his life.

“He is on the cutting edge of costume design.” Williams said.

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