The Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra has ten Panorama titles under its belt.
The orchestra’s performance of Scrunter’s (Irwin Reyes Johnson) Woman on the Bass in 1980 is one of the most iconic Panorama final’s night performances ever.
It is undeniable the impact Trinidad All Stars has had on Carnival and culture in this country.
In 1982 Trinidad All Stars was awarded the Humming Bird Gold Medal for its contribution to this country.
But now the orchestra is hoping to hit the right notes in another sector.
“Panorama as an event, while it is a cultural event, and it is necessary, and it is part of who we are, financially it is a loss-maker. You will win Panorama and still financially lose,” the orchestra’s manager Nicholas Williams told Guardian Media.
“But we still take part in it because it is part of who we are and it is part of Carnival,” Williams said.
“What we have realised is that there is life beyond Panorama,” he said.
Trinidad All Stars was established in 1935 and will celebrate its 86th anniversary this year.
When Dr Eric Williams was prime minister he challenged corporate entities to help out steel bands and opened the door for sponsorship.
“Most bands are not sponsored, corporate Trinidad assists financially but they are not really sponsored in the true sense of what sponsorship means,” Williams said
“We have an aim of self-sufficiency and sustainability. We used to be assisted by Catelli and when that assistance ended finances stopped so it was a realisation that you have to depend on yourself, you have to do things to engender growth,” he said.
In 1988 Trinidad All Stars became registered as a co-operative society since steel bands did not have a legal status, Trinidad All Stars’ operations manager Keith Matthews said.
The properties Trinidad All Stars owns now are vested in the co-operative.
“We have an investment policy so that any time we get income a portion of every bit of income goes towards investment so we’ve reached the stage where we have purchased two properties, we are finalising another one and we are also looking at others,” Williams said.
“We are on our third purchase and we are also looking at another and we have plans for each property,” he said.
Trinidad All Stars now owns 42, 44, 46 and 48 Duke Street.
“We are on Duke and George Street and we are proud of who we are and we are very proud of where we started and where we are going,” Williams said.
“We want to make this an economic hub to bring benefit not only to our organisation but individual members by creating revenue-generating spaces,” Matthews said
“Our plan is to make this pan yard the epicentre for pan. We really want to create that business environment where we are using our own space for commercial purpose,” Williams said.
“We have a membership base with a lot of talent and we want to help them harness that talent,” he said.
Williams said notwithstanding the growth in terms of acquiring property, Trinidad All Stars also recognises that its members are important.
“So about ten years ago we invested in Unit Trust accounts and Roytrin accounts for our stage-side members,” Williams said.
“And then last year during the pandemic we started a benefit plan with an annuity and insurance plan for our stage side,” he said.
Williams said for aged members ineligible for the annuity, a medical plan until they are 100 years old was also established.
A Trinidad All Stars Seniors Foundation has also been started to help retired players.
“One of our pet peeves is that you always hear about artistes doing well during their days and when they reach a particular age they cannot afford this, they cannot afford medical care, and they are always coming back to the public to help out,” Williams said.
“We feel that if our members contribute here every night for a particular length of time then we should really try to put them in a position so when they have retired they are also retiring with something,” Williams said.
Members are also encouraged to save for themselves.
Massy currently sponsors Trinidad All Stars.
Williams described that relationship as “nice and good” as he lauded Massy’s chief executive officer Gervase Warner.
“Support from Massy has been really incredible and Mr Warner he is always there for us,” Williams said.
However if by chance any unfortunate event this sponsorship were to end, Williams said Trinidad All Stars will survive.
“Anything can happen where a company is no longer in a position to support we feel confident that Trinidad All Stars will never fall down, we will continue to flourish,” Williams said.
Williams said Trinidad All Stars has a social responsibility.
“We don’t believe in the handout, we believe in teaching to fish and giving the rod,” Williams said.
“It is a vision we have not just for All Stars but the entire steel band fraternity because it is an industry and we don’t treat it like an industry we treat it as a season,” Williams said.
“I am not blaming any group I am not blaming the government or Pan Trinbago what I’m saying is we as the fraternity have a responsibility to let people know the potential that is our responsibility,” he said.
Matthews said even Trinidad All Stars organisational structure was not the run of the mill for steel band as it does not have captains but a management team instead.
The Trinidad All Stars has a carpark that is utilised by business in Port-of-Spain, a bar, a gift shop and a mini-mall whose stations are being rented.
There are booths available for 25 tenants so far.
While the interview was taking place the aroma of home-cooked food was wafting in.
On the property, Tanty’s Creole Delight is also present.
Williams said because several members are skilled labourers and a services company which provides tradesmen is also a part of the business plan.
Staci-Ann Patrick, Trinidad All Stars’ public relations officer, said a stage is expected to be constructed on the compound to host events, when that time comes.
A green market will also be featured weekly to help people showcase their craft and sell produce.
A museum with the trophies acquired by the Trinidad All Stars is also to be opened.
One of the things that the Trinidad All Stars is looking forward to is the renaming of the corner at George and Duke Streets to the Neville Jules junction.
Jules, who founded Trinidad All Stars, died last February three months short of his 93rd birthday.
Jules won the Hummingbird Medal Bronze in 1970 for steel band innovation and the Chaconia Medal Silver in 2018 for culture and community.