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Return Finals to the Savannah in 2009

An Independent Guest Opinion      

-  by Noah Mustion
Temporary structure replacing Grand Stand

Part of the covered stands in the Savannah erected in place, and on original site of, the Grand Stand - filled with Panorama semi-finals patrons

Trinidad - It is time to return Panorama Finals to where they belong, the Queen's Park Savannah. It was interesting to have them in a new location in 2007 and 2008, but in truth it was not "great in 2k8" like the song says. The accommodations were poor, from the problems encountered by bands from Tobago to simple things like no bathroom facilities being available for pan men and women who were set up outside of the park. There were hardly any food vendors anywhere. The lack of pitch from the outer track to stage is a real nuisance, exacerbated by this year's rainy weather.

Part of the 'Northern Greens' on site of the defunct North Stand

It is very costly and logistically problematic for so many bands to travel so far. Many argue that South bands have been coming up to Port of Spain for decades so why can't the North bands buck up and do it, but in fact, in the two years it has been in Skinner Park only one South band has qualified for the finals, that being medium band Pan Glow in 2007. And normally when any South bands do make it to finals, they make up a mere fraction of the finalists, hardly justifying taking it to their backyard for that reason. In fact, a quarter of this year's large and medium finalists were from Tobago; using this argument, it would have made more sense to have it over there.

View of the 'covered stands' erected on the site of the Grand Stand in the Savannah, with stage directly in front, as it was previously

Preliminaries and Semifinals were held at the Savannah; ironically, they took place on a stage and in front of a grandstand that were rebuilt for the occasion on the footprints of their former counterparts. The atmosphere was right; the drag was teeming with pan jumbies, vendors, and tourists with pan music all around. All of these crucial elements were missing at Skinner Park, with the drag being a roadway too narrow for bands to properly assemble and practice. That the finals were not just held at the Savannah the same as semis, which would have saved so much money and hassle for everybody, is astounding.

Of course, all of the bands brought it. Great music and great performances by all. The stage set up was quite improved over last year; it was nice to see it more open, without a canopy or backdrop - but more like the stage at the Savannah. The bands didn't seem as cramped either. From all accounts, the video and audio coverage was top-notch. But overall the experience was quite lacking. It is true that bucking tradition can be healthy, but there's also a saying that states "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

The greatest irony of all of this, of course, is that a South band DID win Panorama! Pan Elders, of the Small Conventional category, took the title for 2008. And where did they do it? In Port of Spain of course, at the Queen's Park Savannah.

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