#ThinkingAllowed: Is the Cavalcade dying a slow death?

#ThinkingAllowed: Is the Cavalcade dying a slow death?

The cavalcade will slowly die – unless we do something about it. For years now the quality of the event has been on the decline, in sharp contrast to the numbers who line the streets to witness the parade which seems to be either steady or perhaps even on the up! Thousands of people view the parade and hundreds even come from Spain because it has always had such a brilliant reputation.

I love our Cavalcade. It has been successful for 60 years and I hope it will be for many more. In fact I’m writing this article on a plane because I decided to stay in Gibraltar an extra few days before heading back to London so I could enjoy the event which brings smiles to people of all ages.

I decided to head down to Casemates first, where the floats gather from early in the afternoon. The glorious sunshine, the community buzz, scores of children getting ready as the trailers arrived. All of them excited with expressions that could feature on any feel-good poster. I strolled into the square full of expectation with it being the 60th Anniversary – but, my heart sank. The enthusiasm, unfortunately, was not matched by quality.

This is not a criticism of those who made an effort – it is a criticism of those who never made one. Where are Gibraltar’s big companies? I’m not going to name any (it wouldn’t be fair and there is no obligation for anyone to take part) but certainly in the construction field alone for example I can think of a few. In other areas too – groups, associations and government entities! After receiving good monies from contracts every year would it not be great to see some of them give back in return at this event? They have the resources and facilities. It’s fair to say that some companies contribute financially, others by loaning trailers or materials – but let’s be honest, it wasn’t enough to deliver a quality parade.

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The Cavalcade committee and relevant ministries also need to be more proactive. Yes, times have changed and Christmas is a difficult time for individuals to commit to a float, but the committee needs to find inventive ways of encouraging people. They were bold when they took the decision to scrap the many beauty pageant winners in cars. The ending of sweet throwing from floats was also an important move. Both were good moves, for different reasons, and the fact they happened should be a reminder the Cavalcade can change with the times. The next step needed to ensure its survival may be no less bold – but one does exist and the current committee needs to find it! Sending press releases and moaning that there is not enough support is simply not acceptable as an alternative to finding and delivering solutions.

Don’t take me wrong – hats off to everyone who so freely give of their time. We owe them all a debt of gratitude and those who work hard on the floats too are to be commended. It’s not an easy task – it is time consuming and thankless. I’ve been involved with some in the past and have seen too many times the same individuals again and again at work with very little support, and even facing criticism.

This year’s parade did tick some boxes. It was colourful and what a delight to see so many young people taking part. Bravo to all those who contributed like Scouts, Guides, Youth Centres and even individual families. But, the ‘Wow’ factor was missing.

We need a combination of these floats mixed with the more spectacular ones we have seen in past years. The GDP’s one was always a highlight for me – that moment when the float went past and people’s eyes opened wide in admiration. They provided jaw-dropping moments – that is what is missing from the event we love so much. Other memorable ones came from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and other services.

I’m not one to subscribe to views that a Government should have to take full ownership for everything but do believe there is more support they could give to this event. We need covered areas for people to build their floats, but this issue has existed for more than a decade so it does not strike me as the only problem.

To criticise is easy. As the Cavalcade comes to an end you hear “is that it” or “it’s been better other years” – these are the more mild examples. Some also feel they don’t want to criticise it because of the effort made by those involved. Their efforts are commendable but unless we start publicly describing it how it is – lacking – the cavalcade will only get worse. It’s not terrible, it’s not there yet, but do not be mistaken it is well on its way.

Perhaps the Ministry of Culture can take a look at some of the competitions it runs and come up with one where they commit funds to build one designed in a school competition. Some of their ongoing competitions are getting tired so this is just one suggestion. It doesn’t have to be this but they must sit with the Cavalcade Committee to identify possibilities.

I was also wondering whether the closure of Government departments for the Christmas break may have an indirect effect. With people away from their work places it’s more difficult to ask them back to build something?

I’m also aware that for many, long gone are the days when we contributed for nothing – for what we so colloquially called “por amor al arte”. But, was I not arguing last week in favour of our fantastic community which prides itself on being one of giving? Let’s put our money where our mouth is.

I certainly do not have the answer but hope this week’s column will encourage us to find one and may even persuade more companies to contribute in significant ways.

Your reward will be making people happy, particularly children who love to see their favourite characters come alive in front of their very eyes. You would also be providing to an event which celebrates the best of what Gibraltar has to offer.

Let the 60th anniversary have been a weak Cavalcade in terms of quality but a positive turning point in its long history.

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James Neish
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