“We are not the US$200 to US$1,200 carnival,” said Julianne Lee, director of Jamaica Carnival.
Regardless of preparations to participate as one of the four bands to take the streets of Kingston on April 8, Lee says a lack of funding has immobilised the Jamaica Carnival team from moving forward with plans.
“Following a meeting with the various officials last year, we were told to adjust prices to be self-sustaining, but if a higher price tag was placed on participation, Jamaica Carnival would only function as a niche product and no longer as a people’s product. The response we received was ‘so be it’,” said Julianne Lee.
“A wider all encompassing demographic carnival experience just isn’t appealing enough,” continued Lee.
She says that the mission of Byron Lee’s brainchild, Jamaica Carnival, has always been to be a carnival for persons regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds. For this reason, the band offered more affordable carnival attire with prices ranging from US$75 to US$285 and made other rebranding
The team has been actively partaking in the various fÍtes from last year, while manufacturing brands, and partners were put on standby, but Lee says the funding for 2018 did not even come close to the prescribed budget.
Jamaica Carnival has struggled in the past to provide entertainment value at a price Jamaicans can realistically afford, but always pulled through by one means or another. According to Julianne Lee, in excess of 14 million dollars was contributed from the Byron Lee Foundation for carnival in 2017 and six million in 2016.
Explaining the carnival festivities in other countries, Lee expressed that certain concessions are usually offered by the Governments to stage an all-accessible, national carnival experience and not a niche exclusive package product.
“Carnivals in Barbados, Trinidad, Cayman and other islands, not only have sponsors, but local officials and agencies, that come on board equally to ensure that the package represents the majority and not minority and is heavily subsidised. Unfortunately, equal support was not the common goal this year,” explained Lee.
While the Jamaica Carnival brand will not be part of the road march festivities, the almost-30-year-old tradition and legacy of Byron Lee will continue, as the team plans to maintain a brand presence at events and fÍtes.
“We will still be pounding the pavement and knocking on doors for years to come, as carnival remains a definite community building and unifying cultural experience, where we can come out as a Jamaican public and express ourselves through music and design of costumes; Jamaica Carnival is still committed and it is our obligation,” said Lee.