St Paul’s Carnival should be reinstated in 2017 with a minimal programme. That is the recommendation of the Carnival Commission, set up to turn around the beleaguered event in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations in 2018.
The plan is one of a number of recommendations revealed at a public meeting where key organisers – past and present – discussed the future of carnival.
Funding to St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival, the group which has run the festival since 2006, was pulled last year over concerns of mismanagement.
The city council and Arts Council England suspended their annual financial support of £140,000 in the wake of two carnival cancellations in recent years.
The funding has remained suspended while the council set up the Carnival Commission to produce a report alongside their final recommendations for a way forward.
The commission recommends:
– The return of St Paul’s Carnival on July 1, 2017, with a “realistic programme of activities, albeit minimal”
– The minimum requirements should include family activities, a procession and sound systems
– Groundwork to prepare for the 50th anniversary carnival in 2018
– A new, fully transparent not-for-profit company should be set up to deliver carnival in the future
Other recommendations put forward in the Talking Carnival report include future models for the carnival where the day-time and night-time offerings of the festival would be split.
Ideas include dropping sound systems from the programme all together or having associated parties taking place outside of St Paul’s after nightfall.
Some of the recommendations were met with a mixed reaction at the public meeting of about 50 people on Wednesday.
The announcement that a new body would have to be formed to run the festival led to tense exchanges between the commission and some members of the St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival.
Poku Osei, a member of the commission and founder of charity Babbasa, said one option put to funders was to reinstate funding to St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival. But he added there were “strong indications that that’s not going to happen”.
George Francis, a member of St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival, accused the commission of attempting to “co-opt” his organisation, arguing that it should be the other way around.
Julian Davis, member of the commission and chair of the Carnival Network South West, insisted: “Every organisation every now and again has to refresh, it has to change direction and this is the time now, this is the gearshift for Carnival.
“To guide this process we have to ask ourselves a tough question: are we here to save the organisation or the carnival?”
Speaking to Francis, he promised to work “hand-in-hand with like-minded people” to set up a new board to run the carnival.
Marti Burgess, another member of the commission and owner of Lakota nightclub, added: “We need very clear and accountable governance and that is something which has to happen whatever goes forward.
“I wouldn’t want the impression to be that there is infighting about who is running carnival as that is certainly not what I’ve seen.
“This is about us going forward. This is about us taking an opportunity. As a community we need to see this opportunity.”
The Carnival Commission is due to officially disband on September 1 once a new carnival board has been formed.
Read more: ‘It’s time to take Carnival back to basics’