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Ode to Grenfell

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him – Mark Antony

OUTSIDE the media, few people know or think much about the Guardian Media chairman, Grenfell Kissoon, and even those within the industry think little of him, but I’m hoping that, by my writing this honest appreciation, everyone will know him for what he is; few individuals encapsulate human choices, and their consequences for the soul, as starkly as Grenfell.

Since he began running the Ansa-McAl radio stations in 1994 – and instantly turned loss to profit, by slashing costs like Freddy Krueger slashes throats – Grenfell has stamped his authority all over the companies, and the people, under him.

Idealists – and, sadly, I’m one, but I’m learning realism pretty quickly nowadays – often delude themselves that newspapers are different from most businesses because readers choose a daily because of a heartfelt sense of connection: they trust us.

But Grenfell has always known a newspaper’s success is not based on its language, but its arithmetic: save a pile of money on rent – or on columnists’ wages – and you are on the way to profit. Grenfell changed the Trinidad Guardian, the oldest, most respected paper in Trinidad, in exactly the same way Rupert Murdoch changed the London Times, and won exactly the same powerful reaction from his readers and employees.

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From Hummingbird to Dying Swan

In 1990, Judy Raymond, considering Minshall’s King of Carnival, Saga Boy (I think it was), wrote: I knew it was art because it made the hair on my body stand on end. A generation later, mas man Peter Minshall, declining to politely fade into the background, allowing the lesser lights their lime, set the 2016 Carnival ablaze with his king, “The Dying Swan: Ras Najinsky in Drag as Pavlova”.

Quite in St Philip, Barbados, watching footage shot on a cellphone video camera, every hair on my body stood to attention and shivered in salute. And I wished I could have been in the Savannah, to see it with my own eyes – and to hear the collective gasp; not since 1980’s Midnight Robber has a mas blown me to firetruck away like this.
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