In an attempt to stem decreasing attendance at the annual steelband
Panorama competition a number of radical adjustments have been made to
the preliminary round of which gets under way January 29.
The revised regulations for the 41st edition of Panorama include
categorising of steel orchestras into small, medium and large groups,
a system long used by masquerade bands in their competitions,
reduction in playing time of each band and an initiative aimed at
reducing tiresome intervals between performances.
Speaking to the Express, Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold
yesterday described the changes as "crucial and necessary
improvements," saying sheer continuance of the contest demanded a
comprehensive review of its regulations; many of which had not evolved
to meet contemporary standards of the entertainment industry.
"We can't be talking world-class entertainment and not matching
that concept with action," Arnold said.
"Panorama is now 41 years old and still we experience recurrent
problems that first faced us decades ago. There comes a time when you
have to look at any product and assess whether it will continue to
sell or perish, and take appropriate steps based on your findings.
"The bands have become much larger, there was no control over the time
they took to set up on stage and a number of other factors made the
show increasingly longer each year, without bringing any additional
excitement to the event. We believe those components and perennial
problems with house management conspired to reduce our audiences over
the past few years.
"What we have done, therefore is attempt to improve product-appeal
by making Panorama more audience-friendly at every sequence, from the
house to the stage. We have been viewing presentations by various
companies involved in admission-ticket security, to ensure that this
year the promise of reserved seats is finally delivered.
"Participating orchestras have also been seeded based on size and
other considerations, actual playing time cut from ten to eight
minutes and we have also instituted a new approach to managing set-up
time for bands and put in place wireless communication to expedite
movement along the track, which is expected to result in significant
reduction of lulls and lapses; making for a tighter show all round,"
In terms of the categories, a small band is one fielding between 35
and 55 members, while the medium slot means up to 90 players can
perform and, for large bands, the ceiling has now been raised to 120
persons. "We believe this will result in better performances," Arnold
said, "as some bands that thought they never could win a significant
prize, now have the chance of better placing within their grouping."
Evidently responding to widely-held suspicion that, by taking an
inordinate length of time to set up, some orchestras force the house
DJ to repeatedly play (and hence reinforce in the minds of the
audience) the tune they are about to render, Pan Trinbago has also
limited to eight minutes the playing time of vocal versions preceding
performances. "After that, it will be up to the band to avoid negative
public response occasioned by any further delay," Arnold said.
"We had to shake up the competition, because it had become
conceptually stagnated and the records show that, over the past few
years, gate-receipts have been dwindling, which we think is due in
part to the length of time-up to 17 hours in a recent example-people
were expected to sit for these marathon events.
"Tampering with Panorama is always a tightrope act," he conceded.
"On the one hand there is the picnic-type North Stand atmosphere of
the semi-final, because the majority of people who go there are in it
for the dancing, meanwhile you have to consider the Grand Stand patron
who comes for the music.
"While these adjustments may appear new, some derive from proposals
developed by various committees appointed to study Panorama over many
years. They were sitting there in files and folders and we decided to
put them back on the table. It is from that mix of old and new ideas
that we have formulated the new regulations.
"Over the years, valuable people have retired from the
administration of Panorama, frustrated by reluctance to implement
positions agreed upon years before. And while this was understandable
in the context of breaking free from conservative and traditionalist
view, the time has come to revamp the product."