The Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation {TUCO) wants Government to give serious consideration to a special economic stimulus package for the entertainment industry.

In a news release issued today, TUCO’s president, Lutalo Masimba, argues that the entertainment and creative arts sector must be included in any discussion of national economic recovery in the post-COVID-19 period.

“Consideration must be given to this sector as our nation moves to reset and reboot its economic platform,” he says. “For the many thousands of us in the entertainment and creative industries, saving our livelihood is the same as saving our lives.  We Want To Live!!!”

The TUCO president points out that the entertainment sector and creative industries include “hundreds of micro, small and medium businesses; a sector which facilitates thousands in a framework of casual employment; a sector that contributes to the nation’s G.D.P.”, and as such, must be part of the planning of a newly diversified economy.

“This is the sector that boasts of a recording industry 108 years old and is today still lobbying for at least 50% local content on the nation’s airwaves (radio and television),” Lutalo Masimba argues. “It is the entertainment sector that would have branded Trinidad and Tobago in the global market place (not oil and gas). It is the Trinidad Carnival that continues to lead the nation’s tourism thrust in the world.”

Lutalo Masimba observes that COVID-19 has decimated the industry, and forever changed the way it will operate in the future.

“In the immediate local scenario, the restriction of gatherings to no more than five (5) persons has distressed the entertainment sector and creative industries. The closure of bars, restaurants, cinemas, concert halls, and performance spaces, the restriction of beach limes, river limes and community sessions, parties and steelband yards would have its greatest impact on the entertainment scene in more ways than one. Factor in the stagnation of the hotel and hospitality sector worldwide, the closure of territorial borders by restriction of air and sea travel, the lack of cruise liner activity,” he says.

TUCO says Trinidad styled Carnivals around the world have been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He adds: “The cancellation of literature festivals, sporting and theatrical activity, music festivals, trade fairs and entertainment expos throughout the world means that even alternative economic opportunities for our own entertainment stakeholders has been reduced to ground zero. The many Trinidad styled Carnivals held throughout the Caribbean, North America and Europe have all been cancelled.”

The TUCO President says the phased re-opening of the economy, as rolled out by the Government, encourages further social distancing for the entertainment sector, which will lead to a deeper crisis.

“Such a crisis brings distress on the livelihood of all Artistes and Entertainers, Calypsonians and Soca Artistes, Musicians, Panists and Theatre Arts Practitioners,” he explains. “It brings distress on the livelihood of Stage Managers, Road Managers, and Crew, Music Producers, Videographers, Photographers, Publicists, Promoters, Lighting and Audio Technicians, Fashion Designers, flair Stylists, Visual Artistes, Set Designers as well as their Staff and Casual Employees.”

The TUCO boss observes that there is commentary on the money which some local entertainers earn during Carnival and prize monies won in competitions. 

“We have seen mischievous commentary on the perceived lack of welfare given by artistes to people in their community. We have never seen commentary on the millions of dollars that artistes and entertainers collectively input to the national economy in any fiscal year to produce their music, to prepare and enhance performances, to purchase theatrical props, costuming, musical accompaniment, choreography, lighting design, fashion wear, video production and more,” he says.

Lutalo Masimba says those who work in the entertainment sector and creative arts are people too, and saving their livelihood is deeply and directly connected to saving their lives.

FLASHBACK… Terri Lyons receives her cheque from TUCO Treasurer, Denis Cox, in April 2020. TUCO argues that entertainment workers are people too and their livelihoods must be saved. (Image: TUCO)