Media Owner and Event Promoter, Dwayne Mendes, has written an open letter to Prime Minister, Allen Chastanet, asserting that the government should not be an event organizer.
Mendes recalled that at a press conference recently Chastanet announced that an alarming sum of $14 million was spent on the 2016 Jazz and Arts Festival.
“The previous budget, as disclosed by the Director of the St. Lucia Tourist Board, was very different. In fact, the approved budget for the production of the world renowned event was less than half the previously mentioned amount: $6.5 million,” the open letter to the Prime Minister stated.
According to Mendes, Chastanet also mentioned that when B.E.T. J was lost, the opportunity to market a world class TV show was also lost.
Television for the most part, including B.E.T, now has poor ratings and is struggling to stay relevant in this new world, Mendes asserted.
He said that admittedly, B.E.T. is a bitter subject for many as it now seems that the country was being taken advantage of for years.
“ St. Lucia was naïve and the organizers at the time were oblivious to the value of the content in their possession. The nation spent millions producing and filming a high-quality event but exclusive rights to the content. B.E.T. got paid to produce, film, package, sell and re-sell did not belong to the country. It was win-win, profit situation for them,” the Media Owner and Event Promoter declared.
Mendes observed that no relationships were built, nor was any networking outside B.E.T. done, while directors at B.E.T. profited immensely from the situation.
He noted that after 25 years a lot has changed in the world but this is no reason to discontinue the festival.
“Even with social media and the internet, such content is still very valuable. St. Lucia can use these images to showcase itself as a destination to the world. The content from such an affair is still just as valuable as it was years ago,” Mendes asserted.
“ One cannot forget all the fringe activities which generated economic benefit to thousands of St. Lucians. The Jazz and Arts Festival allowed the month of May to be like the Christmas season all over again.”
Mendes expressed the view that the idea of having a series of Summer Festivals is fantastic.
But he felt that the government should depart from the business of producing events.
Mendes recalled that the current Prime Minister mentioned that he would spread the “$14 million dollars” from May to November and create a Summer Festival which would include Jazz, Carnival and Jounen Kweyol.
Mendes felt that many were not impressed.
He observed that in other countries and neighboring islands,governments support events with marketing, infrastructure and security, allowing local promoters the opportunity to produce high quality events.
Mendes stated that currently, the government produces Carnival and its events.
However he was of the opinion that Carnival is losing its appeal in acquiring sponsorship and its premier event, Soca Monarch, is poorly marketed and attended.
“The big Soca names are all dropping out. Their quick fix would be to increase the prize money, when artists are looking for a lot more than a minute amount of wealth from the event. The private parties and shows marketed by local promoters are what attract the thousands of people who come for Carnival,” he said.
The Media Owner declared that it is a fact that any project managed by the government is bound to record increased costs.
“Government should not be the ones creating these festivals as it will cost taxpayers millions more to produce,”Mendes wrote in his open letter.
He said personal experiences have led to the conclusion that there is a high probability of legal compensation by artist managers, service providers and patrons to the government.
“There are several existing events and festivals throughout the year that can be supported, key word being supported, by government and be made into an attraction and marketed for tourism; the rest should be left to the professionals,”Mendes stated.