Since its inception in 1963, the Panorama competition remains one of Carnival's signature events. But research has shown that the event must be revisited if it is to retain and build on its core audience – mature, die-hard pan lovers. "What we were able to see is that the people who come to Panorama old. They born since Jesus was a foetus," said Dr Suzanne Burke, lecturer in Cultural Studies, UWI, St Augustine. Specifically, Burke said the patrons who sit in the Grand Stand of the Queen's Park Savannah, Port of Spain are usually 60 and over while those who sat in what was known previously as the North Stand (now North Park) are between 35 and 50.
The Greens, the research showed, were the domain of the young people, many of whom do not even know the steelbands or their tunes of choice at any given time. Burke said the audience impact assessment revealed the organisers of Panorama are losing their core audience, the people who pay $800 to sit in the Grand Stand to listen to the pan. She said a strategy must be developed to move people to the Grand Stand and those from the Greens to the stands so they would at least hear the pan. (The Greens was discontinued by Pan Trinbago for this year's Carnival after scanty attendance in the previous two years). "The bent out of shape thing is that the people who are playing pan are younger and younger. So, them eh even coming to see they friends who play pan. "She added: "So, young people are playing pan but young people are not consuming pan. This is a challenge."
Burke stressed research is a critical component in ensuring the extent to which festivals and other major cultural events survive in a society. "It helps to determine your changing demographics and psychographics. "Burke was one of the speakers at the Tobago Heritage consultation symposium last Monday at Mt Irvine Bay Resort. The event, hosted by the Division of Tourism, Culture and Transportation, sought strategies to preserve and enhance Tobago's tangible and intangible heritage. It also sought to document feedback on the process from the island's cultural stakeholders and activists.
Speaking on the topic, Enabling A Value Creating Economy for Tobago's Heritage Product, Burke used the Tobago Heritage Festival, held annually in July, as the focal point of her discourse. She also gave strategies that could be used as a template by the organisers of festivals in Tobago to ensure their longevity.
Burke, whose work explores the domain of culture for economic and social transformation, said people attend festivals because of four main reasons: dynamism, sophistication, reputation and innovation. Of the latter, she said: "So, festivals and change are really important. Everyday a new festival is being created but everyday a festival deadin.'" Burke said the first reggae music festival, Sunsplash, which started in 1978, died because of lack of innovation. She recalled that at the height of its success, the event attracted 10,000 foreign tourists, 120 foreign media and generated US$12 million.
By Corey Connelly - Trinidad and Tobago Newsday Newspapers