by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Although excited for the upcoming Sugar Mas 50 festivities, Voices host, Calypsonian and Taxi Operator Sylvester “Socrates” Hodge had one gripe with the 50th-anniversary celebrations for the St. Kitts and Nevis National Carnival.
“This isn’t negative. It has nothing to do with you. But I sang a couple of years ago that I plan not to go back into competition until they build in National Stadium. I take that very seriously… For 50 years, we celebrated carnival, and I love the thing about the covered venue, but Warner Park has been faithful, but it has outlived its use,” Socrates made those remarks during an interview with the Chair of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Carnival Committee Shannon Hawley on October 27.
“I recall some years ago a former carnival chair showed Wingrove and [me] the schematics for a stadium. We were so happy with that; government change that went. And I questioned how seriously to take the culture… Nevis has two performing arts centres. What happened to St. Kitts? You got to Warner Park; you got to have your umbrella. So for all that we are celebrating for Sugar Mas 50 less, that is a negative for me.”
The conversations then led to the need for active investment in the National Carnival as a part of the tourism product for St. Kitts and Nevis.
“You mentioned before the break about a tourism product, and there’s no Sugar Mass without us collaborating with tourism,” shared Hawley.
The melding of Carnival and Tourism is not a novel concept; it is done in other Caribbean islands; Trinidad and Tobago, Cropover in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, etc. And both Hawley and Socrates said that they have both been advocates for more inclusion of the St. Kitts and Nevis National Carnival in the marketing year-round for the Federation.
“I have been advocating for years that marriage between tourism and Carnival… Let us go back pre-COVID you have the Marriott have a troupe downtown; you have to have the Timothy Beach; you engage them… Those pictures they would take of them, the guests in costume you can’t buy that marketing,” said Socrates as they bounced ideas on how to actively make Carnival part of the marketing product for tourism.
“It’s more than the Marriott or any of [the hotels]. We always have cruises coming over that period. You have people from the cruise ships, you know it’s a tour, you put it as a part of their package,” shared Hawley.
“I was focusing on the participation, for example, if you’re a mother and you have your child in costume they go back to school and [show it off], that’s marketing St. Kitts [and Nevis] on another level. It can be done; in every hotel lobby, you should have a kiosk that sells local music, have the costumes [displayed], and they’ll ask. You create a conversation, or you can participate if you come back in the next year, we give you incentive, and you go downtown and take part in it; that’s marketing,” suggested Socrates.
Hawley indicated that part of her mandate as Chair of the Carnival Committee is increasing the collaboration between Tourism and Carnival.
“I see in other islands [they] have Steelband lessons in hotels, [they] have teaching guests how to dance masquerade. These are all part of our overall product that we want to attract the world to come to, and I don’t understand how the only marriage at this point between carnival and tourism is a paragraph in a book. But we will work on changing it, and that is absolutely the intention. I’ve been saying that for the past year and a half now that it really needs to be a collaboration,” concluded Hawley.