Saturday, April 20, 2024

Band heads blue vex

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TWO OF BARBADOS’ veteran bandleaders, Gwyneth Squires and Betty West, have threatened to pull out of next year’s Crop-Over festival.Both say compulsory Value Added Tax (VAT) payments on their costumed bands is making it impossible for them to continue to participate in the festival.Squires and West are also upset that the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) has withdrawn the accustomed $15 000 subvention given to bands for their annual participation in the national event because of their failure to meet the VAT stipulation.“If that is the way Government is going to treat us . . . that is it,” Squires told the MIDWEEK NATION yesterday.“We are the two who are out there fighting to maintain the culture. It is not fair to small struggling bands,” added West, whose band this year was Hills Of Colour.The two bandleaders, who have a total of over 40 years’ experience in the Crop-Over festival said they both depended on the annual festival as a source of income, since they were not employed otherwise.“I am of the age that I don’t have any other form of income, and the bands have become unprofitable because of the several demands and restrictions,” West said.They also said that unlike other bands, they kept the fees for their costumes in a moderate category, approximately $300, and during this year’s festival they were forced to give away costumes in order to reach certain numbers to qualify for some categories under the NCF judging rules.The two bandleaders said, too, that their bands, unlike some bigger bands, were encountering increasing difficulty in securing sponsorship from the business community.“When we asked some sponsors for $10 000 to sponsor a section, they only giving us $300,” Squires said, adding that her band Silver Jubilee this year cost in excess of $105 000 to produce.Both Squires and West also said that their participation in the Kiddies Kadooment was unprofitable for them.“We present the kiddies band because of our love for the festival and that’s all,” Squires said, adding that in several cases they even gave away costumes to underprivileged children.

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