Lashley: Relief coming for masquerade bands

A day after two Crop Over bands, Fantasy and Ravers, announced they were pulling out of this year’s festival for financial reasons, Government has intervened in a bid to halt any further full out and to safeguard the climax of this year’s national festival.   

While expressing displeasure over the loss of the two Grand Kadooment bands, Minister of Culture Stephen Lashley announced that he had already signed off on the necessary documents to allow over 30 masquerade bands to receive some long awaited exemptions at Customs within a few days.

“I have already approved those bands that have come to me. There’re a number of them that have been approved by me and we are in the process of informing the Ministry of Finance of this and the requirement then is to submit the necessary requests to the Cabinet for approval. That is being done within the next couple of days,” Lashley told Barbados TODAY.

“I expect those bands who have registered and all those who have been indicated by the NCF [the National Cultural Foubndation] will get the green light and of course then Customs will be advised. That means their importation for the bands will be able to come through under the exemptions under the Cultural Industries Act,” Lashley added.

He acknowledged that the process had taken a while to go through but said he hoped they would now be able to get past all the issues.

“I have already given the necesssry sign off, and I’ve given the instructions that the necessary paper work is expedited to ensure that all those bands registered for Crop Over will be able to access those exemptions for Crop Over and I believe that will go a long way and relieve some of the stress they are having,” he said, adding that “we will do whatever we can to offer the kind of assistance that’s required.

“We are quite advanced in getting those approvals for those bands under the Cultural Industries Development Act. That news ought to offer some form of relief in terms of those bands who were expecting waivers,” he emphasized while describing the pull out of Fantasy and Ravers as “unfortunate” while expressing hope that no other bands would follow suit.

“It is unfortunate and certainly I am not in anyway pleased to learn that two bands have dropped out of Grand Kadooment citing the economic climate. That does not please me.

“We have tried from year to year to ensure that Crop Over and all our partners are involved and are operating in an environment in which they believe that it’s a win win situation,” the Minister of Culture said while acknowledging that the current environment was “tight because of the general economic challenges facing the people of Barbados.

“I take responsibility as the minister with responsibility for Crop Over. It’s up to us to ensure that the systems are responsive to the challenges people are facing. This is not a festival to be trifled at. Crop Over festival generates in excess of USD$50 million and therefore it’s my intention to ensure that nothing derails the success of the festival,” he told Barbados TODAY.

He also urged bandleaders to reach out to Government if they were having any issues.

“Reach out to us and we would make whatever representation that is necessary and if we can resolve them,” he advised.

“We have always had a collaborative approach when dealing with Crop Over and I intend to make sure that approach continues,” he said.

At the same time, Lashley sought to assure Barbadians that the festival remained on track, despite the current issue with the masquerade bands. 

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