We’re really pleased to have the last of our Carnival Archive partners, and that’s Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts. They’ve been going since 2001, and they’ve incorporated carnival within their brief right from the outset. Please welcome Marcus Patteson.
We’re a slightly different organisation to the other two non-Luton based organisations as they both run carnivals, and we don’t specifically run the carnival. As the name, ‘Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts’ says, we are a community arts organisation and we have a wide remit.
We thought we’d start with a little clip, for those of you who haven’t seen it, from the film we did from the Lord Mayor’s street procession last year.
[ Plays film 1:06 – 1:34 ]
Norwich where is it? A map of the East of England < slide > just in case you weren’t aware where Norwich is, some people aren’t, and before you ask it’s not on the way to anywhere, you have to actually go there, apart from the North Sea.
It has quite a unique culture in this country still, which is that it’s 120 miles from any other major city, unlike the Midlands where you’ve got big cities all quite close to each other. Its 120 miles from London, that’s the nearest big city. It’s got a big rural hinterland, and it has quite a unique culture, in terms of people getting there, staying there, and the sorts of communities that build up there.
From very early on in our discussions with the UKCCA about the Archive Project we were fairly adamant that we should be looking a project that wasn’t just about Norwich. In the bid we’re referred to as ‘Norwich’, but actually we very quickly put it being about Norfolk.
Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts, basically we’re an organisation that believes in using the arts in a transformative sense, so around positively transforming individuals and communities, and carnival really fits the bill in terms of that agenda. There are three key areas of work:
A creative cultural hub. We have a big building and we share it with lots of other organisations.
Carnival has been there since the early days, because, as well as directing Norwich & Norfolk Community Arts, I’m also a practising carnivalist with a specialism in Brazilian music, for those of you who were here last night. I’ve been working with one of my Trustees for 10 years, a woman called Pat Howe, who’s been very influential, particularly up Norwich way, in terms of promoting carnival and doing carnival stuff.
We run programmes. These are pictures from a project called, ‘Back to the Street’, < slide > where we started to explore ideas of street theatre within carnival, so from an early stage we’ve taken on a role in Norfolk of trying to be a carnival development organisation.
In 2002 we started the Norfolk Carnival Network, which was an opportunity for all the carnivals in Norfolk to have a platform for sharing information, for discussing stuff, for getting some continued professional development. We try and run programmes of workshops for skills, and we run projects, we’ve got ‘Back to the Streets’ going, that was 2009, and we have currently got Arts Council money to develop a new carnival company, which I’ll come to in a bit.
Again more on our development role < slide >. That’s the view, bottom left hand side, most people get of me in carnival, which is the back of me, since I largely do carnivals walking backwards leading a samba band, which is an interesting experience.
In 2008 we brought a Rio group over called Monobloco, we toured them around the UK, and the top right hand side < slide > is some work, which those of you who saw my band Rabo de Foguete [? 4:45] last night we’re also we’re exploring ideas around street theatre and music, and that’s some of the development work we’re doing there, and the bottom right is our new Bloco, Bloco Foguete, which we’ve just started.
So carnival in Norfolk, that’s not a good view of the map < slide >, but if you look very carefully at it you’ll see that I’ve snuck part of Suffolk into Norfolk. We don’t particularly like boundaries. We have a big County, there are three or four carnivals just over the border, and we do tend to include them within what we do, Lowestoft, Bungay, Beccles, Halesworth, Harlesden.
Certainly in the 10 / 15 years that I’ve been involved in carnival in Norfolk there have been at least 29 carnivals in that time. Not all of them are still going. As Morcea started talking about some of the challenges carnival face, some of them have fallen by the wayside. Some of them haven’t carried on going forwards, but this is why we really wanted to push with the archive being about 29 carnivals, because I have to admit that the week after we got that agreement Cathie and I sat down, looked at each other and thought, that’s a hell of a lot of carnivals. As we’ll go on to we have connected with quite a few of these, but we wanted it to be about the whole of Norfolk and all the carnivals in Norfolk.
We thought we’d start with a little introductory snapshot from our own personal perspectives for what being involved in the Carnival Archive has meant to us. Cathie Davies, our archive coordinator, is Welsh, we don’t hold it against her, but she’s gone off to watch the Welsh being beaten by England this afternoon in Wales, because it’s also a landmark year for her 50th birthday, otherwise she would have been here.
[ Cathie Davies’ recording ]
Hello I’m Cathie Davies; I’m the archive coordinator in Norwich and Norfolk. I’m sorry I can’t be with you, but I’d like to thank, oh no sorry that was the Oscars I was at last week!
I’d just like to say it’s been a great project to work on, I’ve just been overwhelmed with peoples’ enthusiasm for the whole project, the archives, people from organisers, carnivalists, the media, everybody has been really supportive of the project and the archive.
I think my overriding impression of the project has been peoples’ passion for their carnival, they absolutely love it, they’re so proud of their carnival, of their town, and they have such pride in what they do and what they’ve achieved. Also the sense of rivalry they have between the carnivals, and also between the floats as well who are in the carnivals, there’s a great feeling of, I won this year, or, I won last year, a great sense of that.
Also the feeling of bringing people together, people who wouldn’t normally work together are all coming together just for carnival, and the volunteers, most of the carnivals are managed and organised by volunteers who give up hours of their time and have amazing skills. Often it’s what they do and who they do, often to the detriment of their family, their work, their lives, their social life, and the funding. They hardly have any funding and yet they still manage to put on these amazing events for everybody, and also a lot of them still manage to give money to a charity at the end of the event.
I think the other thing that has surprised me and I’ve enjoyed on this project is that people are so thankful to us, so grateful for us to go and look at their photographs, and to actually acknowledge that they are really interesting things and worthy to put in an archive. We’ve been so often thanked for spending time listening to people about their memories, especially if they’re older people, or if their father, for example, has passed away and they’re pictures he’s taken, that’s been really quite a moving part of the project which I didn’t really expect. I went and interviewed a man who was very poorly, and his wife said that when he talked about the carnival his whole face lit up, he looked forward to the times when I’d go and see him and talk to him about his actual memories.
When we go to libraries and museums to do a collecting day what I really enjoy was that people came along and had a nice time out, they’d often sit and chat to each other whilst we were furiously scanning things. They’d chat to each other and find out about each other, they’d perhaps realise they knew each other from years ago, or they knew somebody that they knew, they became real social events and community events, and I found that really important as well.
Overall it’s been an amazing experience, and it’s made Norfolk smaller, in terms of the carnivals. I think the carnivals in Norfolk now realise that they’re all linked and they’re a really important part of the carnival world, and also the fact that what they have to say up here is really important, they’re part of a much bigger picture, which I think makes people even prouder to be involved in carnival.
I’ll hand you over to Kathryn Elliott who’s our fantastic Learning & Outreach Officer.
As Noel [? 10:38] probably mentioned earlier, our roles as Learning & Outreach Officers is to work with a range of community groups, schools and colleges to develop and deliver carnival arts and heritage based resources and activities, and through this Norfolk have been able to work with a whole range of people, so I’ve worked with preschool children right through to carnival committees, a Brownie pack to young refugees and asylum seekers, and from a home education group to some art and design students.
I also found that within the County there’s been a lot of support from people to get involved with the project, to promote it and support us with what we’re doing, so the community librarian and the curator of the local museum have been really supportive of what we’ve been trying to do, and all have really embraced the idea of carnival.
It’s something that’s really impacted on me, peoples’ realisation of the importance of carnival, so whether that’s schools discovering all the things they can do under this umbrella of carnival, or from individual people that we’ve met out at events, being told their stories and photos, our importance, and worthy of recognition no matter how small, that they’ve all got their place within the archive.
Working with children particularly has been a real joy when delivering assemblies, for example. The children who are so keen to tell me that they’ve been to the Lord Mayor’s street procession and in fact taken part in it, it was something they were really proud to share with the whole school, and something they might not have told their peers about previously. It’s been really satisfying to link their individual stories and personal, local experiences into the history and geography of carnivals, to make them feel part of something that’s bigger, bigger than just their particular dance group, their school, or their city.
For me personally, not having a background in carnival, going out to carnivals over the summer, to events, to carnival committee meetings, I’ve really found that’s it’s made me feel part of something that’s really vibrant and very community orientated.
I’m trying to remember when we first got approached by the UKCCA about this project, I’m guessing 2007 / 2008, I know we got a letter, and then the City Council contacted us to say that there had been this suggestion, to say did we want to part of this project to archive carnival. I have to admit I was deeply sceptical, because at that time we were running a building in Waterloo Park in Norwich and my storeroom was largely full of Pat Howe’s junk. I’m sure she didn’t think it was junk. That was nothing to do with the artistic quality of it, but largely it was as I was trying to get my drums or keyboards out there was lots of stuff, and my gut feeling was, who the hell would want this stuff?
Our experience of the project has been completely different to that. I have to say that it has been a fantastically successful programme. Coming from an artistic point of view, I’m not a heritage person, I think as a heritage programme it’s done some amazing things: It’s demonstrated the massive level of involvement in carnival, because there is so much stuff out there, we went to the City Council and they had boxes full of photographs; it’s brought recognition, the number of people who have come forward with stuff and talked about their involvement in carnival for years and years with all the photographs behind it, absolutely phenomenal, a real celebration of peoples’ lives.
For Norfolk in a way we haven’t been able to do so much with the Carnival Network, although it’s great in principle. Actually for a County that big getting everyone into a space is actually very difficult, but the Archive has really connected people across the County, and there’s been a real commitment throughout the County to be involved and to contribute stuff.
I think also it’s done something of reminding people of the fact that they are part of heritage, they are part of culture, and they are generating culture all the time. We’re very used to culture in Norwich, we have plenty of it, you can see here the Castle and the Dragon Hall < slide >, but we forget that actually this stuff is also part of our heritage; we’re making it all the time. I think Myrle or Morcea said it earlier, we’re making it all the time, we’re creating culture, we’re creating heritage. In a hundred years’ time they’ll be looking at what we’re doing now, or 200 years’ time.
I wanted to do a glimpse, if you like, as to why it’s been particularly important for us. It’s this idea of living heritage I think, it’s about people and it’s celebratory. There’s not much you can say about the millions of pounds poured into opera, for example, Covent Garden, compared to your pound per person when you invest in carnival.
I think also, I come to carnival through someone else’s culture, through Brazilian culture, I fell in love with samba music, I went to Brazil, I studied samba, and I play samba music, and it’s been great to start to look at reconnecting with some of the European roots of the tradition, to look at what it is locally. I don’t like to get competitive but you can trace the Lord Mayor’s street procession in Norwich back to 1385, so I think that a big tick!
It’s fascinating the way this stuff reflects society, so originally it was religious, it was connected to the Feast of St George, it was a procession because the Guild of St George were prominent, and then over a period of time you’ve got the Guild getting more linked to the civic city, the civic life taking over from the religious. It gets connected with Mayor-Making and gets moved to Midsummers’ Eve, because it’s where the Mayor-Making stuff goes on. Because it’s linked to St George a feature of our tradition is the Snap Dragon, figures of St George, and this guy < slide > was a whiffler, who walked down the streets waving, now wooden, swords in the air.
There’s a great description from the early 18th century, this guy Benjamin Mackerell, of the Mayor-Making making procession, this is only a glimpse of it < slide >, we’ll try and get some of it up on the archive, you know the Mayor’s Parish was decorated, the new Mayor, the old Mayor and all the dignitaries paraded around the town, and in 1772 they had carriages so their wives could come along, which for those of us who are trying to get carnival back on to our feet was the start of the motorway madness.
You’ve got whiflers and Dick Fools < slide >, I’m not sure what the difference is between a Dick Fool and an ordinary fool; you’ve got the Snap Dragon, we still have a Snap Dragon in Norwich Castle from medieval times, one of the original ones; you get crowds of people coming to see the entertainment which finish with a firework display, we still finish with a firework display now; and you had Norwich boys from the Grammar School giving Latin oration from spots on the route.
This isn’t carnival as I would necessarily think of it, that sort of thing doesn’t really happen until 1772, when the mock carnival, the Pockthorpe Guild starts up and they start this mock carnival, but it’s a reflection of the society, it’s a reflection of a lot of people getting out there and enjoying the procession, getting involved.
It basically came to an end round about the mid-19th century, but in 1976 a guy called Harry Boreham decided that we should restart it. There was some stuff going on in between, which again the archive has quite interestingly thrown up, we’ve got pictures from a hospital procession, we’ve got pictures from a carnival in Albany Road in Norwich, so other stuff was going on, other things were happening, but we need more time to really get in and find out what they were.
We have an amazing festival in Norwich called the ‘Norfolk & Norwich Festival’, it’s one of the top five festivals in the country, and it was really interesting when Cathie went to interview Harry, talk to him, he was saying why he started the carnival up, that the festival was there but it was for the upper echelons of society. He described the need for a carnival as, ‘a punch-up for the people.’ I hope there wasn’t too much punching involved, but that was the spirit of it, something for the people, and the Lord Mayor’s street procession got reinstated in 1976 and has been going pretty much ever since.
As I mentioned previously, we’ve worked in collaboration with a lot of groups and a wide range of people. I’ve run a series of family learning sessions in the local library, and there are some pictures of that on the screen < slide >; delivered assemblies to over a thousand schoolchildren; helped a Brownie pack create their own carnival arts and heritage challenge badge; there have been talks, arts and craft sessions and history based school workshop, so using the long history of carnival in Norwich to engage them in the archive and carnival today.
I’m just going to spend a little time talking about two particular highlights from the learning and outreach section. The first one is City College Norwich and the Carnival Costume Project.
We had around 40 art and design diploma students who worked together to produce a carnival costume for their 3D unit of work last term, November and December. They were given a working brief by their lecturer, a professional brief, to design a carnival construction combining human and animal elements that could be worn by a dancer at the Lord Mayor’s street procession. They worked on it for a term, completing research, putting together ideas, designing, figuring out what materials to use, putting prototypes together, and then constructing the final piece, which was made from withy and tissue paper.
As part of that we went into the college to talk to the students about the way they could use the archive in the part of their research process, so to find out more about costumes and their role in carnival, and using the images on the archive for inspiration.
We held a judging day just before Christmas; the students presented their finished piece and talked to us about the ideas behind their constructions. All the costumes were really fantastic, they’d been really well thought through, and it was something that the lecturer, she’d never done carnival costumes with her students before, is really keen to do again. She found it really impacted on them and their ideas, it gave them a really definite brief, something interesting and creative to do for that unit of work.
The project has actually lived on since Christmas as well, their costumes are on display in the college, and in fact last week they were worn by a group of stilt workers as part of Norwich Fashion Week, so we’ve got this crossover and collaboration between two different areas again.
The second highlight was something called the ‘Big Carnival’, which was the schools engagement offer for the end of last year and the beginning of this. It involved supporting schools to put on their own in-school carnival to coincide with those or Rio and Trinidad. We had two schools in Norfolk that signed up to take part, one which was inner-city, Magdalen Gates, and then a more rural school, Forncett Primary.
At the beginning of January I visited the schools to do some CPD sessions with members of staff. The aim was to get them to understand about the origins of carnival, particularly the history of Rio and Trinidad, as they were doing it on the day of those carnivals; giving them information about where they could find information and resources about carnival, that we’re creating this wonderful resource and that it has lots of uses; and also to talk to them about how they could integrate carnival into the curriculum and why they would want to do it. The hope was that from those CPD sessions teachers and staff gained that knowledge, they’d then go into the classroom and do the work with the children around the workshops we also provided.
We had a samba artist, again if you were here last night you might recognise John who was on the keyboard. He went into the schools and worked across the age ranges to deliver samba workshops. They went through the different instruments in the samba band, the noise they make, the different rhythms that could be played with it, and they were all able to take part. From this taster session they got a feeling for samba music and were able to play something straightaway. The best class then became their schools own carnival band, they had a rehearsal, and they then led the procession on the carnival day.
We also had costume as well, Ali went into schools with her company, Tin House, and worked again with the whole school to create headdresses, mas ribbon batons, and really getting the children to use their creativity and use different materials, and again they were worn on the day of the carnival.
Carnival day 12th February < slide >, both schools put on their own performances. I wanted to talk particularly about Forncett Primary, because they really ran with the idea.
They decided on the theme of flight for their carnival, and each class took a subdivision of that, some were birds, some were ugly bug parade, and in preparation they made some masks, they decorated their hall, and they put on what they called their ‘Mardi Gras Carnival’. The day began with making pancakes; we had an audience of parents who were invited in to watch the procession; we had a Carnival Queen, King and Princess that were chosen to lead the procession behind the samba band; and the school paraded out of the school, around the playground with the samba music playing, we had this procession with all their fantastic costumes.
The pupils had actually been inspired by their samba workshops to create their own carnival song, which they played, and then they took part in some carnival performance poetry as well. They had a cookery demonstration in the afternoon to make chicken gumbo and King cakes, so they really ran with the idea of all the different things that you can do with carnival.
I think this really shows the variety of work that can be done across so many curriculum links. They did work with art, design, literacy, drama, music, history, geography, religious education and languages, so I think in this sense we’re really successful in spreading the word about carnival arts and heritage, and the fantastic resource the archive is and how much you can do with it.
Imagine I’m now Cathie. The archive bit her key roles were around collecting archive, peoples’ memories, raising awareness and developing with our fantastic volunteers.
We started with a big event at the Forum in Norwich, followed by a road show the following Saturday. On that Saturday we spoke to over 200 people and we started to get some of the vibes, this quote from someone < slide >:
‘I always come whatever the weather, rain or shine, the band always gives me a thrill and shows the hard work you’ve put into it.’
This was very much the sorts of things people were saying to us.
We developed a thing called the ‘memory wall’ < slide >, a cartoon street scene from Norwich. We were going to go out and photograph it, but the day we were going to go out it snowed and we thought, well we can’t really get people to pin up their carnival memories on to a snow scene, because you don’t tend to get many carnivals in snow, so the idea was these slips, which you can’t see very clearly, with peoples’ names and contact details, and then what their particular memory was, a particular memory of being involved in carnival or what they were doing.
The team attended 22 events over last summer, handed out 6,000 flyers, spoke to around 3,000 people, and here you can see the earliest item they’ve collected in < slide >, which is from the Costessey Guild from 1887. Again the Dragon theme, we tend to get some picture version of Snap in there.
Here are some of the events, Diss, < slide >, a horse dressed as an elephant.
I think, these are just the Norwich figures, they’ve got 70 collections, collected out of the Norfolk area, around 6,000 items, and those include things like photos, programmes, planning documents, newspaper cuttings, rosettes, badges, flyers and posters.
Here’s some of the stuff we got < slide >, and what I really love is that if you look at the top left hand one there’s a girl to the left hand side looking over at the boy on the bike. That’s actually the lady who put this particular photo into the archive, looking rather annoyed at all the attention her brother, who is on the bike, is getting.
That’s from Lowestoft Carnival < slide >, so here you can start to see some of the stuff we’ve picked up.
Absolutely a vital part of the work, and certainly the way we imagine it going forward.
Things aren’t necessarily clear beyond April as to whether we’re still going to be able to put stuff up on the website, but our volunteers and our volunteer development has been absolutely key. It came at a really useful time for us because we had [??? 29:00] money to develop volunteering, it gave us a win-win situation really because we were able to invest ourselves in getting people in, but, as you know if you work with volunteers, you need positive things for them to do, you need the person power to manage them when they’re there, and the Archive gave us a fantastic project to get volunteers involved in. I’ve had 33 signed up over the last year or so, regularly coming into the office, archiving stuff, cataloguing stuff, collecting things, supporting events, like you can see some of the stuff at the bottom there < slide >. Here are some of them.
Volunteers are a big gain and we’ve really tried to invest in skills and training, it hasn’t quite finished yet. My sense is this is a 2 year project which is finishing 6 months early, that’s kind of the way I’m trying to see it. I’m trying to see it from NORCA’s point of view. We’re not a particularly well resourced organisation but I do feel that to stop now, to lock down the website, would be a real shame, we’ve got a lot of stuff still to collect, a lot of stuff going on. We really want to, hopefully, invest going forward a bit of time to try and keep that going forward, but particularly our volunteers.
We have a really nice bit of training coming up. Please go to our website, I think it’s also on the Carnival Archive website, we’ve got seven or eight training days, three with the Oral History Society, a couple of creative interpretation of archives, and two with Inside Media who did our film, documented carnival events. They’re free to anyone who wants to come along to those.
I struggled to find adjectives for these guys, ‘fantastic’ and ‘interesting’ were the two I clutched at. It’s one of the real privileges I think for a project like this to be able to go into a room with people like these < slide > who really know their stuff, who are full of it, who interact together in such a creative and fantastic way, and, therefore, offer us stuff.
Certainly the two or three local advisory group meetings I’ve made have been some of the highlights for me, to hear these guys talking about heritage, and really giving us a chance. As an organisation we’ve benefitted because we’re also now looking to go on and do another Heritage Lottery Fund project around something else in Norwich, this project has really helped us to see how we might work closer with heritage and get more heritage value out of what we’re doing.
Two of our fantastic volunteers < slide >, Chris who was here yesterday, and Linda who should have been.
Lots of training < slide >, we try to put in as much training as possible, skill-up people, get them involved, make them feel part of the organisation and part of the project.
Two last things: One, 13th of April in Norwich we’ve got our final event, it’s called ‘Carnage’, which is what you get if you mix carnival and heritage, it’s a day of activities, performances, workshops, going to be very exciting, please do come along, 10 – 4 in the middle of Norwich, it’s going to be very exciting.
The last thing I wanted to say is really a big up for the UKCCA. I think they should be really proud of this project. From the outset it was unique in that the people that came and developed the bid with us, Kate Orchard and Julia [??? 32:32], there was a real sense of partnership developed at that stage. Things went into the bid that we asked for, it was structured in the way that we asked for it to be, we had a say on what it looked like. When it came to delivering it, real fair dues to Tola and her team down here, they’ve seen that partnership through, they’ve made us feel part of it, because we’re a long way away, it’s only 2 hours in the car but it feels like quite a long way away. I feel it has been a real partnership effort, and we really felt that we’ve been part of a family of people delivering the project.
Thank you very much.