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‘Our vision is to have Calabar carnival funded by the private sector’

After successfully hosting the 2009 Calabar Carnival, Senator Liyel Imoke, Governor of Cross River state, had a chat with some travel journalists on various issues.Here is an excerpt as recorded by Jimoh Babatunde, who was there.

Difference between Carnival Calabar, Rio and Notting Hill CarnivalsBy March or April, we give each band the theme for the carnival so they work with it. This year’s theme is ‘Land of Our Birth: Our People, Our Heritage’ and the bands have to reflect on the theme.

The band that wins, interprets the theme the best. It’s not just about the performance, there is a lot of creativity that goes into how you interpret the theme and that’s peculiar for our carnival. It’s not just a dance show; there is a lot of ingenuity, creativity that goes into it.

The band that usually wins are the bands that have the best interpretations according to the judges, every section in the band will be interpreting the theme. Our own carnival is totally different from Rio, Notting Hill and Trinidad and Tobago. Some of them are just dances; very few have the combination of culture. What we try to do is reflect on our own culture so it doesn’t become a purely imported carnival with Western culture.

It’s very unique in its development and presentation. It’s very young; just five years, but very unique. We also think we can continue to improve on it. We are never satisfied with any carnival; we think that the next one can be better. In January, we have our meeting where we review everything that occurred in this year’s carnival with a bid to improve it and add more value to it. Right now, we are looking at having a carnival village with a carnival museum.

Late commencement of the parade

There is a law setting up everything about the carnival, and the carnival is on the 26th and 27th of every year. Unfortunately, the 26th and 27th will sometimes fall on Sunday and that’s the challenge. Do you now move the carnival date when everybody knows that’s the calendar?
There have been so many arguments about the date. When we fixed 26 and 27, the strategy was let people come in, enjoy the Christmas Day, and continue with Boxing Day and carnival. Now that we’ve done it on a Sunday, it will be another seven years before it falls on a Sunday. Those who participated actually said they preferred it at night, amazingly enough. They said it was a much easier exercise, starting in the afternoon and ending it at night.

Extent to which private sector involvement has helped the vision of the carnival

The vision for us is by 2011, the carnival will be funded entirely by the private sector and we think that by that 2010, we should be able to get our big sponsors to bear at least 70 per cent of the cost of the carnival. But certainly by 2011, not only do we expect that the private sector will run it, we also expect more private participation in the organisation of the carnival. Because of the nature of the carnival, you can’t throw it all to the private sector; there are issues that government has to handle but we are looking at the private sector working with us at the planning level.

Why Tinapa has not become fully occupied

Amber Tinapa (a hotel, had just opened this time last year and were also trying to open a water park. The water park is now fully open, Amber is fully operational and T_Mart is also fully operational. T_Mart was not there last year. We believe that it will take one anchor tenant to come in to Tinapa and do big business. Thankfully, T_Mart, from the report I’m getting, did fantastic business over this holiday season so we are now talking with Shoprite. I think by this time next year, Tinapa will have much higher occupancy than it currently has. Tinapa becoming fully operational is something we do not expect to happen in a year or two.


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