“Shock and disappointment,” is the prevailing sentiment among masquerade bandleaders following the announcement by the City of Montreal that the Caribbean Festivities Association (CCFA) will not be funded for 2023, effectively cancelling the Carifiesta Parade this year.
Darryl Dalrymple: Roots Cultural Association
Darryl Dalrymple is the leader of Roots Cultural Association, which has been Montreal’s perennial “Band Of The Year” over the past three decades or so.
He says we were all jolted by the news because complacency towards the parade had set in within the community.
“We took it for granted that the parade was always going to be there,” he told the CONTACT in a recent telephone interview. “So there was never any real show of togetherness when it came to building the carnival.”
He added that divisions within the community continues to impact negatively the annual parade, which is supposed to be a showcase of Caribbean culture on the streets of Montreal.
“In our community it’s everybody and every group for themselves, from promoters to bandleaders, to event organizers. In the end, the culture suffers.”
Dalrymple says after sitting out last year’s due to lingering concerns about COVID, Roots were well on their way preparing for this year’s parade. The way forward he added, is through community involvement and support.
“I don’t care who runs the carnival. I care about what’s best for bandleaders and masqueraders,” he says.
“Right now, what’s most needed is space for us to produce and our mas for carnival…. for years, we have been crying out for space. Once we have that, my hope is for whosoever is in charge to have a solid plan for next year’s parade. ”
Rayne Hackett: Rayne Carnival
Three years ago Rayne Hackett launched her band Rayne Carnival after she started making costumes during the COVID lockdown.
Following her initial “shock and disappointment” at the cancellation news, the young Montrealer says she is put-off by the fact that no-one had the courtesy of saying “sorry” or “thank-you” for all that she already invested in this year’s parade.
“I was hoping for some kind of resolution but once we didn’t have that, you’d expect that someone would reach out to us and say something. It’s a shame because I’ve already invested a lot of money preparing for this year’s parade.”
Hackett says she was pushing hard to have more than 100 revellers on the streets this year.
“I decided to get involved because I saw the need to have more costume bands in Montreal. Roots has been doing it for years but we needed to have more. Tee-shirts bands might be fub but not as picturesque as costumes,” says the young Guyanese, who first participated in Carifiesta with the Guyana Association and with Wes Can Folk Performing Co.
Last year, she was a bit late getting things together for the Montreal parade but got her feet wet as a bandleader bringing a section in a band in the Toronto Caribana. Rayne Carnival will be back in T.O this year with a section titled “Regency” in Epic Carnival band.
Going forward Hackett, says she wants more clarity from organizers and for bandleaders to be more involved in the decision making process.
Tban Thava: Desiree Carnival
After three years participating in Carifiesta, Tban Thava considers himself an up-and-coming bandleader. His group, Desiree Carnival was another of the costumed bands ready to hit the streets of downtown Montreal.
He already had about a dozen people signed up and was well on his way to bringing in more.
“This year, I went all in but the City of Montreal went all out…. too bad,” he mused. The Sri Lankan born carnival enthusiasts, who grew up on Mountain Sights in the Cote des Neiges district, says he had been playing mas for years in Toronto with his Jamaican ex-girlfriend and because of his passion for it, he was encouraged to bring a band. His first year was 2019.
For 2023, he was fully invested, spending over $2000 so far on his preparations. He’s not about to blame anyone for this year’s disappointment but says “it’s a hard pill to swallow.”
“After all is said and done, we still have no parade.”
Melika Forde of West Can Folk Performing Co.
The way Melika Forde of Wes Can sees it, it’s shame that the parade has to be cancelled based on a $30,000 grant from the City of Montreal. “That should not be the deciding factor if carnival means that much to our community,” she says.
Her organization has been a part of the parade for more than a decade and have a vested interest in the development of carnival and the carnival culture in Montreal and across Canada. Her hope is, going forward organizers are able to plan properly and write a proper proposal if that’s what’s needed; find additional sources of funding and work at becoming a true community organization.
Ledon Anthony: Carnival Freaks
Ledon Anthony, who also answers to the sobriquet Anthony G straddles the Carifiesta fence as a one-time bandleader, a promoter, and as a ranking member of the CCFA, who helps out with the marketing of the parade. With this year’s cancellation, he sees Carifiesta at the cross-roads.
“This should be an eye-opener for the membership of CCFA and for our community,” he says.
He echoes what others have been saying. “The CCFA needs a solid membership and the community,” he says.
“I know a lot of people are questioning the leadership and many are saying that they will not be a part of it because of the leadership, but if we want change, it has to come from members, especially younger members.” But nothing will change without full community engagement.