Sunday, April 29, 2012

Historian praises Guardian role in shaping Carnival


Author and historian Michael Anthony says the publishing of his most recent book would not have been possible without the T&T Guardian. At a NGC Bocas Lit Fest short talk on the evolution of Carnival yesterday, Anthony discussed the T&T Guardian’s role in bringing Carnival to the Queen’s Park Savannah in 1919. “If that hadn’t happened I wouldn’t have written this book,” he said.

The 1919 Victory Carnival, a chapter in his book, Carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago from Inception to Year 2000 (Macmillan 2011), was the first year Carnival celebrations and competitions were taken to the venue where Carnival’s most definitive stage is now housed.

Author and historian Michael Anthony autographs his book
 after making a presentation 
on the evolution of Carnival
 at the Old Fire Station in Port-of-Spain,
 during the 2012 NGC Bocas Lit Fest yesterday.
 PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
As Anthony pointed out, in 1919 the Trinidad Guardian—at the time a broadsheet—sponsored Carnival celebrations at the Queen’s Park Savannah to commemorate the end of World War I.  He said that the participants were mainly upper-class and news reports from this era wrote solely from that viewpoint.

The T&T Guardian continued to sponsor Carnivals at the Savannah and when the transition from private to state-sponsored Carnivals occurred, the gates were opened to the public.   Although the Queen’s Park Savannah has evolved into a home for the festival, the mas performed there has waned he said.  Anthony expressed disappointment with Carnival’s commercial shift, saying the glorious period of Carnival, which he places in the 1930s, is gone.

“My feeling is that it has definitely declined and lost its meaningfulness. The best part of Carnival that remains in its natural form is the J’Ouvert.” When Carnival became a business, it lost the traditions of art and theatre, he observed. The discussion yesterday, chaired by radio journalist Sterling Henderson, opened with a reading on the Carnival of 1962, the Carnival of the Independence year. Anthony described the vicious battle for the calypso crown between The Mighty Sparrow and Mighty Dougla and the placards at J’Ouvert that read “Lord Hailes seeing his last Carnival.”

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