Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Blissful leverage

After Lil Hart died in October 1990, her children took over the running of the iconic Carnival band, Harts. Pragmatic by nature, her son Luis was always looking for ways for the band to up the ante. For a while, he felt the band needed to introduce highly visible security because outsiders were coming in the band and ruining the masqueraders’ experience. It was something that his father Edmund had resisted, but in 1991, Luis finally brought in security for the band. It was a new thing in Carnival, but now, it’s a basic requirement for most bands.
In 2016, 25 years after the Hart children took over the band, they will be making another hugely significant step when they join forces with rivals Tribe Carnival, by way of Tribe’s companion band Bliss. This means that Tribe will be managing some elements of Harts’ back end operations like road management, distribution and technology systems. There will also be a new all-inclusive section produced by Bliss in Harts.
One of the key benefits of this arrangement for the bands is the leverage they will have with suppliers when negotiating prices for materials and other supplies.
Tribe/Bliss bandleader Dean Ackin, left, chats with Luis Hart of Harts Carnival about their plans for 2016 at Tribe mas camp in Woodbrook. PHOTO: FRANKA PHILIP
The T&T Guardian caught up with Luis Hart and Tribe/Bliss bandleader Dean Ackin at Tribe’s offices in Woodbrook. Hart explained that while he was very keen for this arrangement, he first had to convince the rest of the Harts family and their close band associates.
“Over the years, I’ve taken my family through a lot of changes kicking and screaming. For example when I wanted to put security in the band, I had to argue that the outsiders were ruining it for the band,” Hart said.
“I had to explain to my family that we weren’t giving up our identity, in fact we were adding to it. We’re enhancing what we’re giving. We owe it to masqueraders to give them something better.”
The news that Tribe will be managing Harts was initially met with some scepticism on social media sites, but Hart and Ackin said the feedback they received from Harts masqueraders has been largely positive.
“I think they understand the concept,” Ackin said. “Once they realised it wasn’t a merger, they were cool.
“Tribe is its own band, with its own clientele and experience. Harts has its own clientele and experience. The bands aren’t coming together, it’s the management that’s coming together,” Ackin stressed.
This arrangement came about because Ackin and Hart share similar ideas about the business of Carnival. The two men are friends and they have been speaking about ways of taking Carnival forward for several years.
“We relate very well, we both understand the brand of what Carnival is,” Hart said. “You can talk about it being culture from now until whenever, but the truth is, it runs on principles of business. That is 
where we’ve come together, and we’re going to see how best we can move forward with it.
“When we order materials, we can leverage and now get better prices for the quantities we’re buying,” Hart said. “Carnival is an expensive endeavour and you won’t believe the effort that we (the bands) take to keep our prices the same. We are trying to see how we can minimise that impact on the masquerader.”
Another benefit in this coming together is the production element. Harts has an established production factory which has served the band for many years. This production team makes the headpieces, collars and harnesses.
“We will share that technology. We can do stuff for Tribe. The work like headpieces, collars—we can do that for them. We will be sharing that workforce,” Hart said.
One area in which Harts differs from Tribe, its companion band Bliss, and other large bands, is that it isn’t an all-inclusive band. Most of the masqueraders in Harts pay to access the drinks carts, and those who don’t, patronise streetside vendors.
“In recent years, we’ve been getting people saying they want the all-inclusive option but there are still many people who love their carts. We realise that is something we needed to fine tune, so we can get the best of both worlds,” Hart said.
“By introducing the all-inclusive section that will be produced by Bliss, Harts masqueraders will now have that additional option.”
Essentially, what Luis Hart, his brother Gerald and their team hope to achieve with this Tribe and Bliss collaboration is a better all-round experience for their masqueraders.
Hart said he expects that the link up will give his people a more finished, polished experience while keeping the family feel they’ve been used to.
On their Facebook page, the message to loyal band members about the collaboration with Bliss was, “The music, energy, fete and fun you’re accustomed to will be even more intense as Bliss will only be adding to the Harts experience as we take Carnival to the next level… As always, it’s 100 per cent fete and we will always strive to make the Harts Carnival experience a better one for you.”
Luis Hart puts it quite succinctly: “If we give people the most beautiful costume and they don’t have a good time, they won’t come back; if you give them a crocus bag, they have a ball and they get what they want, they will come back again next year. So sometimes the experience on the road may be even more important than the costume, so we are striving to give our people the best Carnival ever.”
Franka Philip

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