By Staff Reporter
The Caribbean Camera has come across several letters form the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes (OCPA) penned by Henry Gomez and addressed to the FMC’s CEO Joe Halstead and CFO Eddison Doyle.
The letter is a plea to be paid $20,000.00 owed to OCPA dating back to 2017 – the year when the FMC held back $20,000.00 of $32,000.00 that was owed to the organization for that year’s funding; the FMC never committed its reason/s in writing for withholding the funds. Furthermore, Gomez was requesting a $500.00 payment to himself for a performance he did that in 2020.
Gomez said that there was no Calypso Monarch Competition in 2017; this was due to a number of factors. The death of Dick Lochan, the person who was instrumental in planning and arranging the Calypso Monarch Competition, added to the burden of staging the event that year. By starving OCPA at a time when it was reeling from the loss of Lochan, the withholding of funds had a damaging effect on the organisation.
Doyle explained that the funding to OCPA was based on performance. And as to Gomez’s $500.00 claim, there was no contractual agreement to pay for that performance. The performance took place at an FMC’S Virtual Road production in 2020.
“Some performers were paid for their participation; but I was not,” Gomez told The Camera, “While there was no personal written contract with FMC, I performed based on the precedent that OCPA calypso artistes usually planned and began activities even before a formal contract between the two organizations was signed. FMC did receive significant funding in 2020. When OCPA asked me to perform, I expected to be paid. It was months after my performance, waiting for payment, and finding out that other artistes were paid, that I was told that FMC implied that it had no money and would not be paying. I found this unacceptable.”
But if this was true, the FMC, which did not stag a parade in 2020 or 2021, still was awarded and accepted a total of $1.2 million for those two years from the City of Toronto. So it would seem that the FMC’s mantra of “no performance, no cash” applies to OCPA and Gomez, but not to them. It would also lead to the conclusion that the FMC is no longer funding the stakeholders like OCPA, but instead have changed the formula to a contract by event (an a la carte system) that would only serve to destroy the arts while enriching themselves.
To underscore this in the starkest of terms: the FMC received over $1.2 million over the two years in which it never staged a parade due to COVID restrictions. Yet they have spent the last two years telling a man who worked for them that he did not have a contract to show them. An organization that is flushed with money seems to have no empathy for individual performers, the community or stakeholders. That is why it is a good thing that they are out. The community deserves better than that if the festival is to survive.
It takes a lot more than money to run a successful parade; you must have a passion for the community, love for the arts and culture, as well as a willingness to help people grow and become better than when you first met them.
FMC has done none of the above. Instead they have sown divisions among the mas bands, the calypso fraternity, and steelband community. They have overseen a festival that once attracted over a million visitors, but over the years they have lost over 350,000 visitors to the parade. It seems that funding is used to keep stakeholders in line rather than as an instrument for their growth and development.
This is a unique festival. It is quite different from other festivals; other festivals get funded and they decide what acts to hire and who gets paid. The Carnival/Caribana, on the other hand, receives funds to be distributed to basically three organizations that run their own affairs – Mas Band Association responsible for Junior and Grand parades,the Organization of Calypso Performing Artistes, and the Ontario Steelband Association. A portion of the funds is retained by the FMC for administration and employee salaries.
It is plain that the FMC has lost its way and has moved too far away from its charter to justify their continued existence.
The relationship between the FMC and its stakeholders has degenerated into that of master and slave. That is why the management of the festival must be returned to a community-based organization as it was in the past. It must be done NOW.