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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
London Calypso Tent 2017, Lord Cloak. Photo Credit: Peter Hogan

Storm ACASA ruffles London Calypso Tent

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The board of the UK’s Association of Calypsonians and Soca Artistes (ACASA) has resigned en masse in response to what its press statement called “derogatory statements” about the association’s directors.

Chair and company secretary Vincent John will stay in place until a new committee can be formed. The resignations of the other directors – treasurer Merle Blondel, administrative secretary and projects co-ordinator Cecilia Beckett, PR officer Yvette Philbert and social media officer Louise Sterling-Jackman – will be notified to Companies House after the annual report and financial statements for 2022/23 have been approved and all financial obligations met. Vice-chair Jeffrey Hinds (calypsonian D Admiral) resigned in November 2023.

ACASA began life in 1992 as the Association of British Calypsonians under the leadership of Ashton ‘Mighty Tiger’ Moore. Shortly after Tiger’s passing in 2017, ABC was renamed the Association of Calypsonians UK, led by Vincent John, but within two years later it had gained its present name, to better represent soca artistes.

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The association is best known for running the London Calypso Tent, which provides a platform for calypsonians of all ages and backgrounds to compete for the Calypso Monarch and Groovy Soca Monarch crowns. Last year, the Junior Calypso competition was revived, to great acclaim.

Since the Covid disruptions, ACASA has struggled financially, not helped by a less-than-harmonious relationship with Carnival Village Trust (CVT), which runs The Tabernacle, the West London venue hosting the Tent. Significantly, the ACASA board did not inform CVT head Matthew Phillip of their imminent dissolution – it was left to SN to break the news. Matthew wished the association well – “I’m a great supporter of calypso,” he insisted.

Soca News had previously heard some ACASA members express concerns about the direction of travel. Disagreements came to a head in whatsapp exchanges late last year, triggering the resignations. However, the UK calypsonians seem to be relatively upbeat about the association’s future.

“We’ll rig up a new executive and plough on,” said André Rostant (Muffinman). The Association and the continuity of the Tent are far more important than any individual. Even though we are a small organisation, the membership benefits from a surprisingly broad pool of experience and talent. We achieved more last year than many expected, in often adverse circumstances.”

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Outgoing chair Vincent gave a cautious response: “I remain a guarded optimist so far as the future of Calypso and Groovy Soca music is concerned. However, a lot depends on the willingness to change behaviours and attitudes, music and lyrical content, performance quality, and adoption of a business approach at organisational level.”

In the view of Jeff Hinds (D Admiral), “The whole thing has been blown out of proportion… There’s no argument between calypsonians and any committee member.” Like André, Jeff believes this upheaval is only temporary and will not mean the loss of the 2024 calypso season. “We will continue. We have plans to have a season this year; there’s still time.”

André concluded on a positive note: “We will still be essentially the same eclectic crew, with all our familiar eccentricities, but hopefully greater participation of younger members in deciding our direction of travel. We will carry on pulling rabbits out of hats whatever the weather. And there’ll surely be some really sharp, topical calypsos arising from this at the 2024 Tent! Who wouldn’t want to come and see that!”

As Alex Loewenthal (Alexander D Great) put it: “Kaiso, Kaiso, bobol and bacchanal!”

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