Friday, October 24, 2014

Caribana town hall meeting ~ my thoughts

  Chair  - Knia Singh
So, I went to the Caribana arts group (CAG) town hall meeting/membership drive last Saturday. I found it to be engaging, well moderated and for the most part, they were able to keep the participants and audience on topic. These are my thoughts…
 Firstly, can we all admit that CAG is not the CCC? There are a couple surviving original members, but for the most part, the only people left in CAG are the idealists, activists, community organizers and other folks who tend to vote NDP. There are currently only about 35 due paying members. Everyone else has moved on.
This is a far cry from what the CCC was. The CCC was a community based, membership driven organization that gave birth to, nurtured and administered the festival from 1967 to about 2006. The organization was open to anyone who was willing to pay the membership dues, and leadership was determined by voting members. That meant, the prom queen and king often got to be CEO and treasurer instead of perhaps the more qualified members of the math and chess clubs.

The CCC was made up of the general Caribbean community, band leaders, calypsonians, steel pan people, community activists, entrepreneurs (that covers everyone from caterers and vendors to party promoters). Like any other community organization, there was also your share of smart men and self promoters.
All of these groups have gone on to form their own associations like the TMBA, FMC, OCPA, OSA, TMA, STC etc., etc., etc. All of these new groups try to advocate for, and represent the interests of their own members. The common threads seem to be a love of carnival and wanting to distance them from the CCC/CAG.

I think trying to distance yourself from the CCC is like trying to deny your younger self. Like it or not, all of these groups were the CCC.
Life has taught me that volunteer organizations are fraught with peril, and crazy people.
A festival the size of ours needs a couple full time professional administrators. These must be paid positions if you want to attract and retain capable, motivated people. In addition to this, there are a handful of key seasonal positions which also seem to work better when staffed by accountable paid people. We also need a year round office, and reliable, timely distribution of funds to stake holders like the bandleaders, calypsonians, steel bands, venue owners and other suppliers.
This is the stability the festival management committee has facilitated. The city ensured that professionals were hired, this is as opposed to being elected by an unpredictable membership. If they don’t perform, they can be fired. If they don’t keep stakeholders happy, they can be fired. They must at least appear to be equitable…any scandals and you’re fired!
A prerequisite to getting government funds is delivering on a business plan that shows you growing your own profitability. The FMC has a mandated percentage of revenue that has to come from ticket sales or private sponsorship. This revenue has to show progress. Government should support the arts, but, this support should be treated as assistance to bridge a gap.
 I’m not saying the FMC is perfect, I think they need to be much more transparent.
I know that much of the criticism leveled at the FMC could be tempered by more openness.  
Critics like to throw out the Calgary stampede as an example of a festival which receives more government support without having as large an economic impact. But, if you google Calgary stampede financial statements do you know what the first hit is? The 2013 consolidated financial statements.
To get any financial info on Toronto’s Caribbean carnival you have to go to city hall and pay for a freedom of information request and cross your fingers that they don’t say no.

I may not want the NDP to run the country, but I believe they need a seat at the table. When the CCC was formed, they had a goal to promote and industrialize Caribbean culture and arts. They also had a dream of building a cultural center and generally being a force for good within the Caribbean community in Canada. This good, would take the form of scholarships, mentoring etc. Now, both the CAG and the FMC have provided a few scholarships and the prominence of Caribbean culture has skyrocketed in Toronto since 1967. I think, being a force for good in the community is good for business and is good for the festival.
We do need idealists in the organization, people who want to engage the community and help grow the festival by making the community stronger. If you are going to achieve these goals you need to generate revenue. You can complain for another forty six years about how much “economic impact” the festival has, or, you can generate your own money.
If you are serious about your mandate, why not start your own band? You engage youth and volunteers in your community to make your costumes and you charge enough to cover your costs and any profit goes towards running the community programs that you want to support. You guys are already doing this for the Caribana flags and colours festival.

If you have supporters, you can sell costumes. You can start off as a guest band, that way, you parade early in the day. You tap into the older folks that can’t deal with the thick crowds in the afternoon and who might be encouraged to play if they know the profits go to support a good cause. You have inexpensive sections aimed at the youth to try and bring the stormers in out of the cold. You say you want to engage them right?   I’m not talking about T-shirts, I think a t-shirt band is a bunch of stormers wearing bank logos. I support the idea of a non profit band hiring youth and teaching them the art of creating mas.           

I think CAG has a choice, they need to decide if they can most effectively serve the community by working alongside the other carnival groups, or continue their efforts to gain control of the festival.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

THIS is carnival?

As much as I LOVE The Walking Dead, being overrun like this has NO place on the parade. If you've never seen such a shot before and question it's authenticity, yes, this is accurate. This image really does represent the truth of what happens on carnival day. When I've been trapped along the Lakeshore like above, I felt crushed by this stampede who swarmed in and took over. Notice that there are no visible exits from this - you're stuck in this claustrophobic madness for a good while before you can manage to maneuver your way out. 
And remember, this is what spectators see. Think of all those who travel from out of the country to see mas, and this is what they see. No costumes, just a massive sea of people.  

I don't know what stormers think they've created here with this, but I know this isn't carnival.

Friday, October 17, 2014

What about copyright do you not understand?

Over the years our photographs, which are copyrighted, have been stolen so many times we've lost count. There are the incidents that we know about, that we have discovered or have been brought to our attention. You know for all the ones you are aware of, there are at least twice as many incidents that you don't know about.

One year in particular, our watermark was removed from one of our photographs, and actually replaced with another one. When I brought it to the thief's attention, she tried to justify her theft by saying she just did a search and my photograph came up, so she thought she could use it. Um, what?! So let me get this straight, you remove our watermark & put yours on it and somehow think that's alright? People get even more stupid when they're caught.

Our photographs have been cropped, altered, edited, whatever, you name it, which = stolen.
Last year one person who modeled costumes removed our watermark from one of our photographs with her in it, and rotated it. Why, exactly? I couldn't help but think she did that just to show that she can. But why would someone go to the time and effort to do that when we've long stated on the blog if you'd like any photograph, simply email us. We regularly allow our photographs to be used by models, bands, and media who ask.

At the beginning of the carnival season this year a carnival party promoter in the US took one of our photographs, removed the watermark, plastered their crap all over it, and used it in their ad. They didn't offer an explanation, but I know it was because they didn't think we'd find out.

It's not just photographs, it's also content that is stolen from our blog. In 2009, this happened. Couldn't bother to write their own post, just copied & pasted ours.

At the end of this carnival season we discovered two of our photographs in publications without our consent, our watermarks, or even crediting the blog as the source. So the above cheque is payment for that theft. I will say, payment didn't come easy. I was given the run around for months.

Ultimately this is vindication, in many ways, for all the examples of thievery we've discovered over the years. It's also for all the other bloggers out there who know their product continues to be ripped off, but they don't want to "make a fuss", so they just turn the other cheek. This I say to you: don't be a doormat. Stand up for what's yours. You worked hard didn't you? Schlepped out to all the events until the wee hours of the morning, produced your best work, so you're not going to be alright for some idle unprofessional armchair journalist to then steal from you and claim it as their own are you? Don't tolerate that shit. Nice guys finish last.

Let me simply break it down: After all we do for the festival, for people to rip us off is unethical, lazy and against the copyright laws. 
With the internet exploding the way it has for carnival in the last 10 years, it has unfortunately helped the plenty of unskilled armchair writers, editors and photographers who don't have the creativity, intelligence or talent to do their own work, so they steal from others. But let it be known, even though this blog is not our profession , it's our hobby, we won't put up with your blatant disrespect and theft of our product.

Friday, August 29, 2014

18 year Toronto Carnival (Caribana) photo journalist's account of the parade

 The following was sent to me from a blog reader & community photo journalist.

  Len C. photographs

The four photos showing the fence broken over, and hundreds continue to
cross into the mas bands. I saw revellers just calling it quits and left their
mas band and not continue down Lakeshore. A number of mas bands making thru to the
end would not have its full compliment of paid members and with stormers like a city street.
 When you look at the numbers storming the fence many were hoisted up and like a stampede coming thru that broken down fence and when I saw stormers being pushed forward by other stormers -  its a recipe for some to possibly get trampled.  Who is liable should that happen?
As a media journalist covering Toronto Carnival (Caribana) for the past 18 years and contributor to a number of media our Grand Carnival parade from the staging area and crossing the VIP and judging area goes fairly well and when it proceeds along Lakeshore over the years thousands climb over the fence or breaking the fence down with crowbars, bolt cutters and storming the mas bands to the point wheres stormers outnumber masqueraders jamming them up to the point where the mas bands have difficulty moving and proper spectators the enjoyment of seeing a Carnival parade at its best.

Revellers pay up to $300 for their reveller costume and when stormers overrun their space and
many are intoxicated bringing their own alcohol creates a dangerous situation for the mas bands.
Over the years, many that play mas have dropped out for safety concerns and feel whats the point of being in costume and get over runned by stormers.  Also for the many who volunteer their time to make mas and take their holiday time to do what they like best is to see a wonderful Grand Carnival parade without Hinderance and they wonder why do this anymore.  The first few bands usually manage to make it thru and by mid afternoon the following mas bands have to contend with stormers and it breaks the flow of the parade.  All mas bands have the right to travel the 3.5 kilometer route without intrusion as each and every performer pays for that right.

Once the last mas band to go down Lakeshore by all means let the crowd enjoy a street parade
following the last band. As a media journalist, just watching those breaking the fence and storming the parade is an indication more must be done to stop this.  I saw this at 3 locations and other photographers have encountered the same along the route. Who is to blame? Should a number of injuries or even a stampede take place where the fence is broken down and perhaps some could be trampled.

I spoke to several American tourists with tween  age children and they watched the fence breaking and could not believe what they were seeing and video what they saw and decided to leave fearing safety for their children and said with so many street people mixed in with the mas bands and they were in the $5 no seating area in CNE grounds along the fence on Lakeshore. Seeing what they
saw said they will no longer attend Carnival in future and enjoy other Toronto sights.

The photos of the fence busters says it all. Security and police would be overwhelmed by the shear
numbers storming the parade and especially when the fence is broken at various locations. The fence busters were in the $5 no seating and one can see groups shaking at the fence to find the weakest link in the fence and all it takes is a few with crowbars to hack away.

We know the mas bands continue along with many long time revellers to work with all concerned
to come up with a solution that true carnival spectators can enjoy a full parade with all mas
bands and mas bands and revellers be able to show mas as a mas band and not a jumble of revellers and stormers.

Also many have told me they enjoy the King & Queen Show and will not attend the parade to see the
costumes the way its suppose to be.

There will always be stormers, but the goal is to keep it as low as possible

Readers, continue to send in your photos, videos and/or comments about your experience. 

Caribana 2010 slideshow

Mardi Gras, Hamilton

Mardi Gras, Hamilton

J'ouvert 2008!

J'ouvert 2008!

Mardi Gras 2010

Buublenut, Megan & Karabana at Caribana 2007! a7


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