Please welcome to the stage from the Southend Carnival Lowell Weir, who is the Learning Officer, and Penni Bub who’s with the Mushroom Theatre Company, and they’re going to tell us about Southend.
I’m the Learning & Outreach Officer for Southend and my background is in teaching and youth work, so coming into this role it was my job to develop the learning resources, and also link with community groups, schools, volunteering groups and try to get them involved in carnival. We delivered school carnival archive workshops; lots of different things took place.
I’m going to tell you a little about that, and I’m also going to tell you something about the Archive Project as well. I’m talking from my own perspective as the Learning & Archive Coordinator, but I’m also talking about my colleague, Julie Taylor, who actually collected the archive resources and did a lot of hard work, and has produced what we think is a very good carnival archive resource for Southend.
We also want to celebrate the success of Southend Carnival. Southend Carnival has been running for a very long time. I’m going to be giving you a little quiz at the end about Southend Carnival, which hopefully you’ll enjoy.
The aim of the presentation is really to develop your knowledge about the rich history of Southend Carnival, the impact it still has on local people, and to inform the audience why archives are important and why you should get involved.
What I hope you get from the presentation is:
To know why archives are important;
To know the different types of resources, which are on the archive website, this is unfortunately something you’re not going to be able to see today because we’re not going to be able to link up to the internet, but you can go on to the archive website to actually see the Southend side of the archive, and I think you’ll see some rich resources from Southend; and
To know a little bit more about Southend Carnival.
When I was thinking about this presentation it crossed my mind that one thing I need to get over is the passion local people have got for Southend Carnival: When I was speaking to a gentleman in his 70s who was telling me that in Southend Carnival they used to have horses that used to go down the parade; also speaking to an 84 year old woman who was telling me what it was like for her going as a child, then taking her children and her grandchildren, a lot of passion; and then speaking to people who are new to Southend, new communities, about getting involved and wanting to be involved in Southend Carnival, they’re also passionate about it. Southend Carnival has got a lot of legacy, a lot of things to be proud of, a rich history, and lots of passionate people.
When I was thinking about how to combine the learning side and the archive side I thought what I would do is tell you about my own learning journey, so what have I learnt? I learnt from an away day we had in London last year. We had lots of guest speakers, and we had a guy from Brazil to tell us about the Rio Carnival. He said that in Brazil they have carnival leagues, they’ve got a first division and a second division, and teams get promoted and relegated. The top teams can get up to £2 million from the Government to actually develop their carnival floats, costumes, etc because it’s such a big thing out there.
The person who was giving the presentation said he wanted to get people interested in the Notting Hill Carnival, so he showed them a film of Notting Hill Carnival and he said when they saw it they all laughed, because the whole of the Notting Hill Carnival procession is what makes up one troop, one carnival troop in Brazil, the whole of Notting Hill Carnival.
Then I found out how much Notting Hill Carnival makes over the Bank Holiday weekend. How much do you think Notting Hill Carnival brings into the local economy, any of the children, how much money do you think with people going to Notting Hill Carnival spending money on drinks, food, what do you think, £1 million?
£80 million thank you Penni you’ve given that away [ laughter ]. Anyway moving quickly on it is £80 million.
My first thoughts about archives are pretty similar to you, I thought archives are boring; archives are about dead people; archives are about fossils; archives are for old people; archives are for academics.
I went to the UKCCA induction, which was my first week in the role, went there for the weekend, and when it came to the archive section, having said what my thoughts were about archives, I wasn’t really looking forward to it, I thought, oh this is going to be pretty boring, but we had this woman, Elizabeth Oxenbow [? 6:42] who gave this great presentation, and all of a sudden I found, god this is actually quite interesting. Archives aren’t boring, which obviously I did think previously that they were just boring. I went home, speaking to my cousin, he was saying, ‘what was your week like?’, and I started going on about archives, and how interesting archives were. I was excited by archives.
A good archive is about capturing peoples’ stories. I had a gentleman come in, Mr Bruninger [? 7:33], with his wife into the office. They were a retired couple and at first he was saying, ‘it’s more about the wife, she’s got things she wants to let you know about in the archive, her mum’s still got stuff’, but then he started talking about it, I think he looked at some of the archive pictures on the wall, he said, ‘yes we used to win that, the float competition, every year, it was a big thing in our company.’ He told me he went into his boss’s office and on his desk were all the trophies they’d won from previous years, and his boss looked at him and said, ‘we’re going to win it again this year aren’t we?’ So there was that competitiveness, that pride in taking part in Southend Carnival.
It’s about preserving information for future generations. I think when I actually do the quiz you’ll actually realise the length of time that Southend Carnival has been going on, and how much history it actually has. That history will be lost if it’s not saved and preserved on archives, and also those peoples’ stories are saved through their oral histories on the archive, you can actually listen to them and find out things in the past, and also things that are actually happening now.
What we’ve actually done so far, myself and Julie, is to work with 20 schools, 1 university, 2 colleges, 25 community groups, 3 carnival artist troops, 5 local historians; we’ve held 32 archive events; a further 12 events attended that other people have put on; delivered four carnival arts workshops with another six to come in the primary schools.
We’ve inspired teachers to deliver carnival within the curriculum and show them how to use it. Also a lot of these schools have delivered their own mini carnivals as part of their project. This school < slide > is Friars Primary School, they held their own little mini carnival, and I think the pictures speak for themselves. This is young people designing their costumes and having their own little carnival day.
A good archive gets local people involved, so what we’ve done is recruited volunteers to get them involved. Julie and her volunteers have scanned and uploaded over 2,800 images of Southend Carnival; they’ve collected programmes from the 1900s to the present day, which have been scanned individually. A lot of work has gone into it by Julie and also by her volunteers, which we really appreciate.
At this point I was going to give you the chance to have a look at some of that archive, but unfortunately we haven’t got the internet connection so you’re not going to be able to see it, but please have a look on the website, it’s worth looking at.
In terms of volunteers, Julie has recruited 35 archive volunteers; I’ve also recruited 35 Carnival Ambassadors and volunteers.
How long has Southend Carnival been running, I’m expecting somebody from Southend, some of the young people to have your hands up straightaway with the answer?
Higher, anybody else?
I think I’m just going to get it right, 107. It’s been running since 1905. It was initially thought Southend Carnival had been running since 1906, but the research has informed us that it’s been running since 1905. In fact, to be honest, some people think it’s been running since the 1890s, because somebody’s already told us that there is archival material going back to the 1890s.
At its height of popularity in 1938 how many people do you think attended Southend Carnival, I’m looking at the young people again, how many people do you think went to the Carnival in Southend in 1938, 2,000, 4,000, how many?
No much higher than that.
50,000, not bad but it’s even more than that. 60,000 Penni I’m glad you got that wrong [ laughter ]. It’s actually 100,000 people attended at its height.
Has anybody in the audience got any ideas why Southend Carnival was nationally important in 1951 / 52? It was the official carnival of the Festival of Great Britain, Southend Carnival. It was shown live on the BBC.
One of the resources I developed, which schools told me they’ve used as a starter activity, was the A – Z things which you find at the carnival, so children would have to fill it in, what they thought the ‘A’ was for that you’d find at a carnival. A nice easy one, what type of thing would you find at a carnival that begins with the letter ‘D’, young people?
Thank you. I’m going to through a curved ball out there, anybody think of anything that begins with a ‘Z’?
On the Carnival Archive website there is actually something which is somebody wearing a zebra costume.
Which of these resources would you find on the archive website, a local history film about Southend Carnival?
Suggestions on activities which a teacher can deliver in class?
A DVD on how to deliver a processional dance?
A carnival schemes of work?
All of the above?
And much more.
I’m coming to the end of my bit, before Penni does her bit I had some young people who I recruited as Carnival Ambassadors, they were going to come here and do a little presentation themselves, but unfortunately they’re in the last few months of their degree course and they need to be in Southend so they can’t come, but they’ve sent a little message, and you can actually see some of the work they’ve been doing on the DVD.
[ Plays message ]
‘Hi we’re the Travelling Suitcase and we were going to give a presentation today at Conference, but unfortunately we can’t be there, but we really hope you have a great day.
Just to tell you a little bit about our journey with the Carnival Archive Project. I was first recruited as a Carnival Ambassador and then I’ve chose to do my [??? 16:46] at the university I attend, and we put together a small dance troop, started creating carnival routines together and then started to do workshops in schools. It’s been a great opportunity for all of us, we’ve all really enjoyed it, and we hope that we’ve passed on some knowledge to young people at schools, and hope we’ve encouraged them to get involved with carnival themselves.
We really hope you have a great day and sorry that we can’t be there.’
This is some of their routine.
[ Plays DVD, message ]
‘The inspiration for the choreography came from, I did a workshop in [??? 17:35] arts and it was about Haitian carnival performers, and a lot of the inspiration for the choreography came from that.’
[ DVD playing 17:51 – 18:06 ]
‘… where we have to prepare workshops for children, rather than just demonstrating our routine, and the routines are pretty much almost sorted now, it’s just a case of getting the workshop together, so we’re doing a lot of research on best activities to do with children, and hopefully they’ll really enjoy it and then take part in Southend Carnival next year.
I think everyone’s a little bit [??? 18:30] with this project, we really want to show the university how creative we can become as our project [??? 18:36] with carnival. Lowell’s been advising us on the best way of putting the project forward and getting funding for the project.
We’ve got free space, luckily, here at the university, it was nice of them to give us some free space, so we will be putting it on, and [??? 18:55] more fund raising so we can really take [??? 19:03], so really looking forward to it.’
This is part of the routine they did at the school.
[ Plays DVD 19:14 – 20:30]
When they did that at the school the young people really enjoyed it and actually did some of their own bits added to that. As a result of this project those young people now have actually formed their own dance and performing arts company. Before this project they didn’t have a company and as a result of the project they’ve actually got their own company.
That’s enough from me I’m going to turn you over to my assistant, only joking.
Right I think you’ve all been sitting around for long enough. I’m just going to tell you a couple of things about Mushroom Theatre Company. There’s some of our stuff coming up there < slides >. We were asked to get involved because we’ve been doing carnival for nearly 9 years: Upminster Carnival 10 years ago, got a bit bored, there were some great floats from here and from Notting Hill, but apart from that it was a lot of advertising, and I decided that we could do something a little bit different.
We have a big, massive float and everything on that float is made out of recycled materials, the only thing we buy is a bit of glue, a bit of paint, so we end up with peoples’ curtains, cardboard, old banners, just use the back of them, it costs us next to nothing, they lend us a float, and we’ve got all our own lights and stuff we’ve been collecting off Ebay.
That’s my daughter < slide >. All the children make their own stuff; they spend a week making the float, learning all the processional dances. The dances are all choreographed, we don’t just run along and dance and wave our hands it’s all properly choreographed. They dance from the beginning to the end, which is sometimes almost 3 hours, where there can barely walk and they can’t walk for 3 days later, they all dance.
I’m going to get you up dancing because I think that’s what carnival is about, so everyone on your feet, find a space, no-one can sit down, except you Charlotte and Jake. I’ve been delivering some workshops in schools on the history of carnival and music through the ages, so I’ve picked the 1950s, and I’m going to show you a little bit of dance and we’re going to do it to music just for fun, to get us moving a bit.
[ Demonstrates dance moves ]