(Trinidad Guardian) Fifty five years after it was formed by legendary calypsonian Lord Kitchener, the Kalypso Revue tent is set to close due to financial constraints.
The announcement was made by the tent’s head Michael “Sugar Aloes” Osuna during a press conference at its traditional home at SWWTU Hall on Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain, Tuesday afternoon.
Osuna explained the show 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 tomorrow 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 said: “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.
Osuna repeatedly referred to a similar situation involving the Chutney Soca Monarch competition and its private organiser Southex Event Management.
Earlier this month, the company threatened to cancel the competition after it was offered $300,000 in sponsorship from the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB).
The show was put back on after Finance Minister Colm Imbert admitted that there was an error as it was due to receive $1 million.
“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.
“I have to because they are also private enterprises and they are well cushioned where sponsors are concerned. Revue hardly has sponsors,” Osuna said. He also said that his tent operates across T&T 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.
Liverpool said: “The calypso tent has done a lot for T&T 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.”
Lord 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,” Peru said.
Contacted Tuesday evening, Minister of Community Development, Culture and the Arts Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said that the figure offered by her ministry was what was approved by Cabinet.
“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,” she said.
The figure offered represents two thirds of what it (Kalypso 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,” she said.
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,” Gadsby-Dolly said.