Travelling to Guyana is not for the faint-hearted, with no direct flights from London it is approximately an 18hr trip. The best airline route is via Trinidad or you can take the crazy route that I took. London – Antigua – Trinidad – Guyana, but pack a lunch box, have your music, films and plenty to read as you embark on this trip. Admittedly, I did not get to travel around or see any of the magnificent waterfalls or rainforests, as it was regrettably, only a six-day holiday. I came solely for carnival and to experience this new and exciting entrant into the carnival world.
Guyana carnival only has two mas bands, Pulse and Genesis, but they both have the capacity to host a number of sections. Both bands were on board with inviting local and international designers to impart their creativity in Guyana. Notably, Strongjeh International was there to represent the US contingency and bought many of their fan base to Guyana. A Guyana carnival UK team also participated. Patricia Sawyerr, the designer for PYS Carnival in London, was the creative designer for the Bartica section for Genesis Mas Band, and whom I participated with for the carnival. Other sexy, tantalising designs were also available and the designers did not disappoint with their creations.
The mas camp was centrally based at the Queens hotel, in downtown Guyana and having spent some time there, you could see the pressure that the Guyana organisers were under. I witnessed a few instances of upset that you could possibly attribute to many new mas bands formations. For this year’s carnival, Genesis had collaborated with a number of mas bands and had the responsibility for those costume productions. Unfortunately, there were a number of costumes that were not ordered, coupled with the delivery of late communications in regards to costume collection. There were significant delays to the delivery of costume backpacks for Genesis, eventually produced and not given out until the day of the carnival. I could not actually wear my back pack on the day, due to the poor production, as with a number of the others.
‘On De Road’!
There are very few countries where carnivals start at the advertised time and Guyana was one of them. The delay with the production of a number of backpacks set back the start time, …..well that and the rain. We eventually set off at around 3.30pm and to be honest that time worked, as Guyana is hot and humid but beware – it does rain, hard!
There was an adequate drinks bar, a huge music truck blasting Soca music on the road. The pit stop had a really good set up, with a selection of good quality food and seating areas. After an hour we were back on the road and this is where the true feters were found. Following on the route path, the float took us all the way to the final stop, reaching there at 10.30pm for the last lap fete. Unfortunately for me, I had a flight that morning, so had to give up at midnight to return back to pack.
The Carnival Verdict
This was the second year that Guyana hosted a Caribbean carnival. Not to be mistaken for Mashramani, held earlier in the year. The carnival is a public event, privately owned and funded by corporations to try and increase the tourism in Guyana. In terms of events, Guyana certainly did not disappoint with its fete list, with choices of up to three fetes a day, and you could fete all day and night. Guyana was sponsored heavily and had excellent facilities and fantastic venue setups for each of the events.
So now let’s get down to the point of whether I felt the carnival was value for money, would I go again or even recommend the carnival? Let’s just say that the Guyana organisers got it aesthetically right, but the carnival organisation needs to review mistakes that occurred, learn from feedback and put firm plans in place to reduce the impact of their errors for 2020. I am in no doubt that the Guyana carnival will grow and find an abundant following, but questions grew around the extensive pricing of the events for a new carnival. Many of the mid-day fetes were not packed and the champagne parties had not been that successful. More importantly, the pricing of the costumes was deemed somewhat extortionate. With Guyana only in its second year, did this carnival actually warrant charging the hefty event and costume prices? Pulse Mas were selling T-shirts for $200US to join the band and it did feel like the costumes were on par with Trinidad carnival prices, with the ultra-frontline costumes ‘ultra’ competitively priced from $850US. That said, closer to the carnival many of the backline costumes were being reduced from $750US or ran continual promotions to attract buyers. I could not fault the ‘on the road’ experience, but to be honest, apart from the Ultra Frontline costume, there is no “ultra-experience” and no differentiation in service.
Guyana seemed to have spared no expense in hosting this carnival and the associated events. From the high-profile artists booked to perform, the numerous fetes to select from, to the champagne and pool parties. VIP is the way to go with inclusive drinks, quick entry and food, but for the vibe, the standard ticket areas are the place to be. With friendly people, great local food, gorgeous weather, i even felt completely safe there and witnessed no violence or threats. Guyana certainly gave as good as it got and believe it really does have more to offer in years to come. Would I go again? Yes, but beware for us Europeans as it works out to an expensive carnival to go but I do recommend it as a place to visit for the carnival chasers.
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