By Lincoln DePradine
The ownership and control of Toronto’s carnival have been a contentious issue between the FMC and community stakeholders of the festival, which began in 1967 as Caribana.
The City of Toronto, citing management and financial concerns in 2006, withdrew funding for the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC) that had overseen and produced Caribana since it began. The Festival Management Committee – now the Festival Management Corporation – is now the producer of the carnival that received $625,000 in funding last year from the City of Toronto.
Educator Henry Gomez, a former CCC chairman, believes there could be a total demise of the Toronto carnival if there is no rapprochement between FMC and CCC, which now is known as the Caribana Arts Group (CAG).
“For the festival not to die, I think that the two groups have to come together and find a way forward,’’ Gomez told The Caribbean Camera at a CAG event last Saturday. “Each one needs the other. People can say what they want but the name Caribana still means something.’’
Gomez, a former Canada Calypso Monarch known as “King Cosmos’’, was the ringmaster for Saturday’s “Caribana On Ice’’ at the skating rink at Mel Lastman Square in North York.
Under a light sprinkling of snow, the afternoon program featured a display of flags of various Caribbean countries and skaters and dancers performing to drumming and tropical music such as soca, reggae and steelpan.
“It was beautiful,’’ Amah Harris, artistic director of “Caribana On Ice’’, said in describing the event. “The snow fell just right and then it stopped. It was just wonderful.’’
Harris, who thanked the artistes and organizers that assisted with the execution of the program, said CAG is “trying to make sure that we get the vision of 1967 back on the road. We thought that this will be a lovely way to start our season’’.
Davina Reid, elected CAG vice chair at the organization’s recent annual general meeting, said Harris “poured her blood, sweat and tears into this production. She worked tirelessly over the past two-plus months to put this show together’’.
“Caribana On Ice’’ was initiated years ago by a Gomez-led CAG board of directors after a suggestion to him from his daughter Natasha.
“Props to the current Caribana board for deciding to keep it going because I think it has potential,’’ said Gomez. “This was a lot of fun today.’’
Gomez said he is “very optimistic’’ about the future of CAG under the leadership of newly elected chair Geraldine Stafford.
“She has the passion of the organization at heart and the new board of directors wants to do things differently,’’ said Gomez. “They want to make a positive difference and, to me, that’s very important.’’
At some point, Gomez argued, CAG and FMC “are going to have come together somewhere; I don’t think it’s going to work any other way’’.
Gomez, who also is a steelpan player, isn’t completely impressed with the FMC-run carnival in Toronto.
“The only thing I’ll give them credit for is that they found a way to keep the negative publicity away from the media. But, in terms of the festival itself, they’ve not improved it in any significant way; in many ways, it’s gotten worse,’’ he charged.
“For all practical purposes, the FMC is operating in a vacuum; it’s not accountable to our community. It’s accountable to sponsors and the government. If those are the ones you’re responsible to, then what you’re saying is that they own the festival.’’
#Caribana On Ice, # FMC # CAG #steelpan