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Tent trouble

by Donna Sealy

The first National Cultural Foundation event on the Crop-Over calender is two weeks away, and calypso tents might be facing a dilemma.

President of the Barbados Association of Tent Managers, Sinclair Gittens told Barbados TODAY that things will be tight with the 13 tents registered with the National Cultural Foundation given that sponsorship is down, the subvention was unlikely to be increased and there will be competition from other festival related events.

“Some of the tents were complaining about sponsorship because a lot of the business houses, because of the recession, have cut back on their sponsorship and nothing has been reduced — insurance and other overhead costs. It will be difficult to operate now with those types of overheads without sponsorship and you can’t contemplate carrying up the price of admission.

“It puts us in a dilemma. What you might see is some tents only operating for two nights and some might only open for judging night because they have to look at their costs for operation. This might be the case because if you’re not having sponsorship why run for four or five nights when you can’t cover your overheads?” said Gittens, who represents the larger tents such as Celebration Time and Bacchanal Time.

He said that before the calypso tents were the place to be but they were facing competition from the band fetes.

“The loyalty is divided between the patrons on whether to go to a fete and enjoy myself or go in the tent. You would have to be a calypso lover or like the tents to go. Those who are looking for the party and want to enjoy themselves would want to go in the fetes,” he stated.

The BATMAN President added how the tents’ managers got patrons depended on their marketing strategy.

“We have to do something to get people in the tents. Tent culture has been changing. Every island in the Caribbean has been having this challenge with dwindling numbers even [in] Trinidad … numbers have been falling off tremendously,” he stated.

For The Alliance spokesperson, Sharon Carew-White it boils down to the same thing — tents need to be innovative and have marketing strategies.

“Last year we only had 11 tents and 10 judged. There are very few guidelines for tents now because of the decrease in money. Before we had to do X amount of nights, five or seven nights to qualify now all you have to do is be in operation for two years and having a venue that is NCF approved.

“Apart from that a tent could be any show or production…,” she explained.

There are seven tents that fall under Alliance’s umbrella and Carew-White said that tents have to develop a marketing strategy.

She said she spoke to the other tent managers about their plans and how they would get more people through the doors.

The manager of the House of Soca said that she wanted quantity and one way to do this was to offer group specials as it “might be viable for people to come out in groups of fours”.

“Yes we do have great overheads – sound, lighting, venue – but at the same time let us see if we can get quantity and do it at $20 still. We can say let us get a household of four to come out and enjoy the show for $80 and hopefully they would go away and tell four more persons,” she said.

Regarding her tent Carew-White said she will be working with BARP to offer their members discounts.

“People, this is our culture and we have try and save it. We have to market it to persons here and internationally. We have to use all the mediums available, Twitter, Facebook, and on-line papers. Barbados TODAY is one way to read your paper overseas. My brother in England and others get fuelled by the fact that [he can read] what is going on.

“The year [Barbados TODAY] decided to have the video clips, people stopped me and told me they were coming to the tent to hear that song. I thought it was a really ingenious idea from your point of view and it really did help House of Soca. I don’t know how the other tents feel about it but I enjoyed that aspect of marketing because those people who want to come over for Crop-Over get the feel and you have to see how you can touch that market,” the tent manager said.

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