‘Carnival is the heart of the city’ – BBC News


Carnival is fully back on the streets for the first time in three years

“The reality is that it’s such a big thing that no one is going to own it, except the community – if it doesn’t work for the community, it doesn’t work,” said Pax Nindi, artistic director of the St Paul’s Carnival procession.

It’s that premise that has kept organizers of Bristol’s iconic St Paul’s Carnival going as they prepare for the first full-scale carnival in three years, which kicks off later.

They have worked in schools imparting education about carnival and Caribbean culture throughout the year, as well as working with communities to create elaborate and meaningful costumes for the processions.

A series of additional events were also held to ensure the theme – “learn from legends” – keeps people educated about Caribbean pioneers from the past, present and future.

This is all when packed carnival days are held, full of Caribbean music on the four main stages as well as food stalls and after parties.

This year’s event also marks 75 years since Caribbean people arrived in Britain on the HMT Empire Windrush and joined the founding workforce of the NHS, as well as 60 years since the Bristol Bus Boycott, which organizers say will make it “better than ever”.


St Paul’s Carnival is celebrating its 50th year in 2018

‘Passing on history’

Carole Johnson, co-chair of the carnival, said: “We’ve always been very careful that we stand on the shoulders of some great giants from the past because part of our tradition is oral, we have to make sure we’re conveying history.”

That history will feature prominently in the grand procession that will cover a 1.8 km (1.1 mile) route around St Pauls from 12:30 WIB to 15:00, featuring 802 people in costume with 42 others helping them all focus on the theme This year .

Participating floats include the Windrush Bus, Hype Dance, One Jam Troupe and the St Pauls Carnival Dance Troupe.

Eleven schools with 300 children will also be part of the 30 taking part, having been involved in the St Paul’s Carnival Education Program, which organizes six-week workshops before the festival, in which costumes are made and dances choreographed.

image source, St Paul’s Carnival


Artistic director Pax Nindi joins Leah Pimm (right), the school coordinator who is now on maternity leave, and Cotham School teacher and carnival head Marlene Kelly at this year’s first school workshop

Abi Steward, who helped run the school project with Leah Pimm, said: “To keep with the theme, we’ve been learning all about the island and Caribbean culture with the kids.

“They’ve studied animals, colors, textures and costume ideas.

“Cotham School had seen monarch butterflies, which are native to Jamaica, so they designed a beautiful cape.

image source, St Paul’s Carnival


School children have learned to dance to join the procession

“Carnivals play an important role in educating the younger generation and maintaining those traditions – carnivals are not just a one-day event, but take place 365 days a year.”


Norman Stephenson runs dance classes for the new St Pauls Carnival Dance Troupe

Designing and coordinating the procession has been the job of artistic director Mr Nindi, who previously ran the festival and was national adviser to the UK Arts Council.

This year he helped set up two Mas Camps – places where people can gather to make themed costumes, learn to dance and join processions.

The camps, at the St Paul Learning Center and at St Paul’s Adventure Playground, have held 21 sessions led by local circus artist Carol Sherman.

They made two large costumes – a king and a queen – as well as a smaller floor costume. People can also take their own items to turn into costumes.

Mr Nindi said Mas Camps ensured “the community can have a sense of belonging with their carnival”.

“We want 10 people from each Mas Camp but we have 48 people, who will march with Carol in the procession,” he said.


Mas Camps has made costumes ready for carnival

Mr Nindi said a great deal of work had been done to ensure a balanced and sustainable procession between different music and dance groups, by not using diesel generators but battery-operated floats or push-bikes.

He said: “I tried to program it in such a way that there was tension between the groups.”

Along with the procession, music is a big feature of the celebration and what many think St Paul’s Carnival is famous for.

Jamell Ackford, who lives in St Pauls, produced the Roy Hackett Memorial Stage – named in memory of the activist Mr Hackett who led the bus boycott and died in 2022 – and helped oversee the other three stages.

The memorial stage, which will be at the St Pauls Learning Centre, will play a mix of reggae, dub, hip-hop, spoken word, Afrobeat, UK funky and will feature a takeover by Ujima radio.

He said: “It’s really about highlighting what St Pauls and Bristol have to offer – the artists.

“Bristol has always provided a rich history for musicians – it’s a melting pot for new and historic music and our live shows abound, so it’s not hard to find so many great artists.”

He added his team had been working “around the clock” to ensure the right acts would be on the right stage at the right time.

Mr Ackford said: “It doesn’t matter what happens in the coming years or in the past, Carnival is for people and by absolutely beautiful people – it is the heart of Bristol.”

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