By RIA TAITT
Mas on the Foreshore next year. Government is examining a proposal to relocate Carnival to an open-air, sea-blast, Foreshore venue until such time as the $700 million Carnival City and Cultural Complex is built, according to yesterday’s announcement by Culture Minister, Joan Yuille-Williams. Construction of the complex would require the breaking down of the Grand and North Stands, the traditional home of the major Carnival competitions, including the Monday and Tuesday “Parade of the Bands.” Yuille-Williams said she hoped that the facility which would cost “a little under $700 million at the moment, stays at that price.” Another suggested venue was outside Knowsley House (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), she said yesterday at a news conference at Whitehall.
Encouraged by what she had seen at downtown and Adam Smith Square this year, Yuille-Williams stated the Foreshore and Knowsley House venues would be in keeping with the “mas on the move” idea which worked so well this year. “Many people have been saying that they want mas on the move,” she said, adding that “a lot of creativity would have to come into play” in deciding where the Carnival celebrations would go. The minister said that Government would be able to start construction of the facility “as soon as the NCC is moved out (of its current location at the Savannah), and I am hoping that is done by the end of March. The biggest problem would be labour,” she noted, adding that as long as labour was available and a 24/07 shift is employed, the facility would be finished in time for 2008.
Giving details of the the plans, she said “sunken, below the ground level facility would not stand up as a tall building blocking the beauty of the Savannah.” Only the entrance and exits would be visible from the streets, she said. Stating that all the environment issues had been dealt with, Yuille-Williams said the architects had travelled “across the world” before doing the designs. State-owned Udecott would be responsible for constructing the facility which would have a seating capacity for between 14,000 to 18,000 persons, the Culture Minister said. “It is a long-awaited facility that Trinidad and Tobago should be very proud of,” and which would be well worth the cost, she said. She noted that it would not be confined to Carnival, but would be available for other purposes. It would house a museum, offices, training rooms, studios, Carnival offices, event management rooms, security booths and parking spaces for 3,500 cars, Yuille-Williams said. A ten-tiered retractable roof to provide for all weather conditions would protect patrons, she said.
She added that Government was hoping that the Grand Stand could be demolished in parts so that the different modules could be taken to different communities. She said Government was now in the process of getting accommodation for TUCO, NCBA and NCC. It also was examining options for the large maintenance staff at the Savannah while the new facility is being built, she said. Yuille-Williams said there would be a final farewell ceremony at the Grand Stand (before it is broken down) to which stakeholders — including the horseracing community which once used the Savannah stage — would be invited. She said the “Champs in Concert” would be appropriately titled “the Final Crossing.”
Reflecting on this year’s Carnival, Yuille-Williams said she was extremely pleased with the smooth flow of the bands. The usual congestion which has characterised previous Carnival Parade of the Bands was absent, she said. She noted that “Poison” took only one hour to cross the stage. She said the pan fraternity was very happy with the number of steelbands which participated in this year’s street parade. She said the ministry was gratified to see a return to the traditional mas, which was something it had very deliberately encouraged. Measures which the ministry had taken to foster this return included training with the children, workshops with the Best Village groups, annual re-enactment of the Camboulay riots and the annual Carnival Sunday morning traditional mas. Yuille-Williams said there was a return to costumed masqueraders on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, a positive trend which she hopes would continue.
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