The hard work of the late Lord Kitchener is about to come crashing down!
The Calypso Revue is set to close down after 55 years of operation.
And what makes it worse is that the reigning Calypso Monarch, Chalkdust, will have no where to sing.
Reason? Lack of funding from the Government and corporate Trinidad and Tobago. The manager of the tent, Michael Osuna, also called Sugar Aloes, maybe facing a backlash by switching from total PNM support to jumping on a People’s Partnership stage in 2012 and singing for then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
He was vilified by PNM supporters for that move, although Aloes said it was just another job he was doing. Aloes has not recovered from that move.
On Tuesday, Aloes called a news conference and explained the tent was affected by a number of factors including meagre corporate sponsorship, small audiences and a reduction in Government funding.
Osuna said that the tent required $500,000 in Government funding by Thursday in order to revive the show for the remainder of the Carnival season as it was already making losses, two weeks after opening.
Last week, the tent was offered $100,000 from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts.
Osuna added, “This situation puts me in quicksand because the more I wiggle the more I sink. If I can’t pay the first salary I would not want to owe four. That will be a very embarrassing situation.”
The closure is expected to affect 65 calypsonians, backup singers, musicians and other support staff, who were all in its employ for the Carnival season.
Aloes continued, “I know that we are in a deficit where the budget is concerned, but I feel if you could find $1.5 million for chutney, you could give Revue $500,000,” he said.
He went on: “This seems to be the beginning of the end. I think it is very unfair to us.”
Asked if the comparison between the tent and Chutney Soca and International Soca Monarch competitions was unfair as the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (Tuco’) Calypso Monarch competition is also State-funded, Osuna said no.
He added, “I have to because they are also private enterprises and they are well cushioned where sponsors are concerned. Revue hardly has sponsors.”
He also said that his tent operates across Trinidad for over four weeks, while both competitions take place over two nights (semifinals and finals).
Reigning Calypso Monarch, Dr Hollis “Chalkdust” Liverpool, also called upon Government to intervene in the situation.
Chalkie added, “The calypso tent has done a lot for Trinidad and Tobago, not just corn soup but for nurturing calypsonians and developing their art. You cannot let the calypso tent die. The calypso monarch could die that is all right.”
Kitchener’s former manager, Errol Peru, suggested that his former associate would be disappointed by the tent’s closure over half a century after it was founded as Kitchener’s Revue.
“When he was awarded the honorary doctorate from the University of T&T (UTT), I believed that he could now rest in peace. Today he is again turning in his grave.”
Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Doll,y said that the $100,000 offered by her ministry was what was approved by Cabinet.
She added, “The Government, which has already allocated more than $7 million to calypso in 2018 against falling revenues, is doing its best to preserve the art-form and traditions. We must all do our part.”
The figure offered represents two thirds of what the Revue received last year, as with all other competitions that receive Government funding.
Gadsby-Dolly, who visited the tent last weekend, said she was disappointed by the small audience.
“What disturbs me the most is that this tent, a staple on the Carnival landscape, with such a proud legacy, is not attracting significant patronage.”
Gadsby-Dolly also suggested that additional funding was not sustainable.
“Even if the Government was to underwrite the entire cost of production, it would not solve this more fundamental problem.
“This may be a signal to all tents that a change in modus operandi is required to improve their brand and attract more corporate sponsorship.”
So how much funding did Kaiso House receive from Government? What about Kaiso Karavan? Kaiso Showcase?