Pax Nindi


Carnival Conference Feburary 2012

Pax Nindi

Pax Nindi Transcript (Click to read/hide)

Pax Nindi:

I just want to really point out that when it comes to carnival there is more into it than what we get from the media, the local authority, the funders, the sponsors. For example, if we look at the financial impact, a lot of carnivals don’t do their financial impact research, and I think Ruth can confirm it here, that when the LGA did research in London about how much money Notting Hill Carnival brings in those 2 days, it came to over £92 [? 0:35] million.

Brixton Carnival did also their own financial impact, a small little carnival, and they worked out that it was £1 million that they bring into the economy when they do carnival on 1 day.

There’s a little carnival up in North England, Kendal, Torchlight, it’s a very small one, and when I was at the Arts Council we commissioned research there, and I don’t know how many people go there, but they worked out it was £1.5 million that they bring into the economy when they do this carnival for 2 days.

So carnival does play a lot of things. It does impact the economy of most of the cities that they’re based in, but it’s just really who sings the praises about it. The reality about it, whether we like it or not, including Notting Hill, that money doesn’t go to carnival, it goes to the businesses and people around it.

Then also carnival links up with education. It can touch a lot of parts of the [??? 5:25] Club, when somebody’s their wire bending, visual arts. When they’re saying, ‘our theme this year is China’, whatever, somebody has to research the geography, history, and so on, so carnival does touch quite a lot of things in terms of that.

Then also networking opportunities is just one art form that I know is built every time when you go to carnival. When you walk away you’ve got a new friend. Every time you go and make a new costume you end up with a new friend, so there’s networking that goes on.

There are types of carnival, certain carnivals, where traditionally the way they operate doesn’t allow them to share information, especially Trinidad type of carnival, where the competition is, ‘I don’t want you to know what my costume is this year until carnival day.’ Then there are certain ones, I see carnivals in Brazil, where there’s no secret at all, partly because the Government puts so much money into it. One of the carnival groups gets something like $3 million a year.

I’ll show you some video later, but the way they do carnival in Brazil is it’s like the football league. You’ve got 14 groups that are specially chosen to be the ones, because the Government gets a lot of tourism out of it. Each one of these groups are set up in a place called, ‘Samba City’, everybody’s got their own offices, they’ve got a place for building massive floats, especially for building the costumes; people come in, clock in the morning to work, they come from different villages, and when they’re finished they go back again, so it’s actually an industry.

Then after that you’ve got another group, A, B, C, D, who are waiting to see if any of the special groups mess it up and they’ll be in. The Government put in that much money, and also you’ve got drugs barons and lots of other people waiting to put some money in it as well. Whereas here we’ll be lucky to get even a drug person to say, ‘I want to give you some money to do something.’ [ Laughs ]


Luton is a good example of where we share, where we’re not secretive about costume making because of the mass camps where the groups prepare.

Pax Nindi:

Oh yes. You know what it is. It’s also the prizes; we don’t have a history of winning big prizes here. If you go to Leeds people get given prizes in cash, they actually walk away with cash in their pocket, so you have to be careful who you share information with.

I was going to talk later on about what the Centre does with carnival here, the local authority, the running, the logistics, and so on. We are here helping with the resources, helping with the artists, helping with the materials and so on.

Then cultural differences influencing carnival, this is the bit I was just saying, we’ve got different cultures in carnival. If you go to Bridgwater it’s a completely different culture to the carnival I was talking about in Kendal, yet they are both English style carnivals. Also I think most of the carnivals here, the majority of them are influenced by the Caribbean style carnival. I mean even though we’ve got a lot of Brazilians who take part in carnival, there isn’t a particular Brazilian carnival, there are only about two I think. Recently there’s one in Liverpool, which is the Brazilian style, but the rest we’ve got in London, you know carnival [??? 4:32], so they’re most like [???] culture than for specific thing.

I’ll just talk about really how carnival happens in other places, because as I say here this is how it happens in Luton, you know you’ve got the local authority running it, and then there’s an organisation, like us, who are actually there, funded to work with carnival nationally, but as well enhance carnival locally, so we have to do quite a lot of this.

What influences Luton Carnival? I’ve already said some of these things. There’s the culture. I mean when I started working in Luton I found out that there were about 10,000 people from my country running away from Mugabe; 10,000 Zimbabweans, so I thought, wow that’s brilliant, achieve something with carnival. Then there’s also the Irish community, and recently there’s been a lot of influx of Polish communities as well.

So in terms of how this carnival develops, I just have to say, and somebody can correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve watched Luton Carnival for years, just how I watch other carnivals, and how I see Luton Carnival it’s one carnival in the whole country that I know that has got the Hari Krishna standing next to the Zimbabwean, standing next to the Ghana society, standing next to the St Kitts, and so on.

How I see it happen is because Chris and Frankie, who are the officers who are running carnival here, they went to Trinidad, loved what happened there, came back here, and then what they did was to say, ‘okay you are from India here’s £2,000, do the float; you are from Jamaica, £2,000 do the float …’ and then people were just building floats. All of a sudden these communities are working together. Because there are certain carnivals in the country where people go and they don’t feel like they’re welcome, because it looks like very strong Trinidadian, very strong St Kitts, and so on, but Luton has got this thing that most carnivals don’t have, where it’s like all the different communities working together. That money think helped a lot, but now I don’t think money matters because people still want to work with each other.

The schools play a very important part as well, in terms of just being involved with the carnival.

And then charity, again there are a lot of people who do Luton Carnival not to make money but to raise money for charity, which happens in most of the English carnivals Most of the English carnivals in this country it’s very much like that, they’re being done to raise money for charity rather than doing it for artistic reasons. There are some of the Caribbean ones where it’s artistic, show the best costume, show the best dancing, and so on.

Then family plays a very important part as well. I mean I love this family thing, because most people think if the family’s running things it’s a disaster. I’ll give you an example, Derby Carnival the person who leads it is George Mighty, the Treasurer will be somebody Mighty, the person leading the procession, somebody Mighty, and so on. So in terms of the funding system I know people see that as a corrupt thing, but I personally don’t see that really, because that carnival is going on, it’s also about being able to bring other people in it. Most carnivals, even when I was in London, a few of the carnival groups who’d actually come because the whole family came, and the dad had said, ‘whatever you do you’re going to making costumes, forget about the doctor business, the lawyer business, you’re going to be making costumes.’ This culture of carnival continues.

The stakeholders, as I was just saying to you, Luton Carnival is actually run by stakeholders, just the local authority. Some stakeholders are quite good in the way they run things and some aren’t good.

While people are saying Notting Hill Carnival is for the community, because it’s actually started by the community, rather than this carnival I’m saying is started because they were celebrating something, Notting Hill Carnival is very much like, we’re here to stay whether you like it or not. But when you see the carnival running who decides how many people come into it, it’s not necessarily the carnival organisers, it’s the stakeholders. The police will close Westbourne Park Tube, Ladbroke Grove Tube when they want, when they feel there’s too much danger, and they can open it whenever they want as well, so there are certain parts where the stakeholders play a very important part in a positive way, and there are certain parts where the stakeholders actually destroy carnival.

Then institutions, investors and so on; artists as well, and organisations.

Now I’m going to do something very quickly with you. This carnival, that’s Luton Carnival [ referring to slide ], can somebody tell me …… okay I was in Brazil in December recruiting for this project, I showed this video to the Brazilians and they all laughed at me. Do you know why they were laughing? They said, ‘is that your carnival?’ I said, ‘yeah’, and they laughed. Any idea, don’t worry; I’m going to play a video when we’ve finished and then you’ll see why.

Carnival here today in Luton, event is being run by the local authority; participation is from different sections of the community, not just Caribbean or English, but everybody; the procession starts from Wardown Park and ends up in Wardown Park; the resources, as I said, this organisation here we facilitate and help carnivals build their costumes from here, offer artists, there’s an association which was encouraged from this organisation, Luton Association of [??? 9:43]; and then we facilitate that, so the Sound System Association [?] as well, we support on those. Also there are other displays of carnival, like samba and so on, which also some of them do their workshops here.

The Centre, I’ve already mentioned a lot about the Centre.

Crossroads I need to mention very quickly. Every time when carnival changes in these places, because there’s been a celebration for the Millennia, for this and that, this year because of the Olympics the Carnival Centre here has got one of the biggest carnival projects. It’s a carnival project that’s doing for the Olympics, but for this particular region. This has been going for 2 years now, and unfortunately I’m the Creative Director for this project, and what we’re doing is we’re working with five towns, so we’re working with Ipswich, Norwich, Cambridge, Southend and Luton.

Each of those towns, what we’ve done is we’ve chosen the best designers in the country and put them into these five towns, and then each town has got a help designer, who’s really going to pass on their skills, their expertise. The idea for this project really is to celebrate the Olympics, but also to engage and leave a lot of expertise in the locality. So there’s the calligraphy, each one of those towns has got a calligrapher; music, each one has got a music director, and then each one of those towns has got a musician that we’ve chosen to be representing their hub.

Also we’re going to be making this big massive float; this is why I was talking about Brazil. I didn’t go on holiday I went there to recruit a float builder who’s the best float builder in Brazil. He’s also the Artistic Director of Samba City, which is where the Government puts all their money. It’s going to be the end of this month. He’s going to run master classes for people taking part in Crossroads, and also a master class for anybody who’s interested in float building, so at least in England we’ve got a few more people with expertise about float building.

What I’m going to do is play this video and you can tell me why they were laughing at me.

Recording ends 12:14 minutes

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