By Gerald V. Paul
Pan Alive may well be alive this year but it could be wounded due to a dispute between the leaders of the two largest steel bands and Ontario Steelpan Association (OSA) over funding.
The annual presentation by OSA slated for July 31 at Lamport Stadium is a significant and popular event during Scotiabank Toronto Caribbean Carnival
“Dead!” said an adamant Wendy Jones, leader of Pan Fantasy, an 80-member core mobile steel band, when asked if the event will happen as scheduled.
However, Ken Bhagan, OSA board chair, and Dwight Belgrove, board band rep for St. Jamestown Youth Centre Steel Orchestra, both adamantly stated Pan Alive will happen as planned, whether any bands pull out or not.
Jones told The Camera as we went to press late Tuesday that “OSA failed to help the bands financially. As for the Festival Management Committee (FMC) – they have no money.”
She said the payments offered by OSA are lower this year and they are still waiting to be paid for last year. As for the prize money from last year, “We are still waiting.”
Jones and Earl St. Pierre of Afropan Steel Band are unhappy with the contractual offer from OSA this year to each band which provides a $1,200 appearance fee, $500 for transportation and a further 20% of each Pan Alive ticket they sell to a maximum $2,000 and then 5% for each ticket sold after that.
Those two leaders have easily the largest steel bands that traditionally perform at Pan Alive and suggest that if they refuse to appear this year, it will significantly reduce the appeal of the show. They say that Sillohettes, Metrotones and New Dimensions steel bands are also unhappy with the payment offered by OSA.
La Pierre said if a larger payment is not offered, his steel band will not perform at Pan Alive. Neither Jones nor La Pierre have signed the contracts currently offered, they said.
Jones said steel bands with up to 100 players each have annual expenses including transportation, trucks, paying arrangers and tuners.
Bhagan said, “Pan Alive is the only gated event for OSA. So the steel bands are paid based on the receipts from Pan Alive.” He noted that the Pan Alive payment structure was passed by the OSA board. Jones is vice-chair of that board.
She also expressed dissatisfaction, as did La Pierre, with the $6,000 per band offered by OSA for participating in the Aug. 1 Grand Parade during Carnival. La Pierre took issue as well with OSA’s plan to make those payments after the parade, arguing that bands need the funds beforehand to cover costs.
OSA has about $89,000 this year from FMC to pay bands that march in the parade.
“We spend over $25,000 over the summer here at Pan Fantasy and they are giving us $6,000. That’s the reason why we do several events, because we need to pay our bills,” Jones said.
Jones, a recipient of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) Harry Jerome Award for Entertainment 2015, said, “The OSA handed out contracts at a meeting last Saturday – the first meeting since 2014 Pan Alive – and we have no intention to sign them.”
Bhagan said Jones and La Pierre were not at that meeting.
La Pierre said, “We are about uplifting pan and the culture. So that’s the reason why we need the funding.”