In the summer of 2012 the Carnival Archive Project documented the Luton Carnival, this included commissioning videos and photography of the events.
[ Background images 0:00 – 0:23 ]
Carnival, the biggest party in the world. To me, personally, I think carnival means mass fun, because you have a whole load of people coming together, whereas you would have people keeping to themselves, but around carnival time everyone’s in it for the fun.
[ Carnival images 0:40 – 0:55 ]
This is one of those events that everybody should get involved. It’s an event to meet other people, to see what’s going on in the world, to admire people’s work.
[ Carnival images 1:06 – 1:14 ]
I think it’s the time of year when people can just enjoy themselves, and they don’t have to stress, just have one day of looking at something really colourful and some people’s really hard work. It gives people who have this brain for making this creative stuff a place to display it, because it’s not always like, you don’t want to walk into an art gallery, this is the place where everyone can see it all over the world. If you come round and you come down and see it would be nice.
[ Carnival images 1:35 – 1:44 ]
Every time carnival comes around there’s the excitement in the air. Everyone’s probably thinking, okay carnival’s on this day what are we going to do? But then most of them are kind of shy and don’t really want to participate, but if they do come out and they have a glimpse I’m pretty sure they would.
[ Carnival images 2:04 – 2:12 ]
I think it’s going to be very big and people don’t realise how big it’s going to be. There are so many things are happening, so many stages, there’s actually too much to choose from, so I think people will be pleasantly surprised.
[ Carnival images 2:26 - 2:39 ]
It’s good because it brings out a different side of them, an artistic side, that some people might not even realise they have until they get involved in something like this.
[ Carnival images 2:50 – 2:58 ]
Carnival is very good, it brings together music, dancers and the cultural side to it, the creativity side, the artistic side to it, and I think it’s good to get all these mix of talents into the carnival. Many young people nowadays are very creative but it’s hard to get out there and show your creativity, so I think it’s a great way for people to get involved and just be creating and be themselves.
It’s just like getting all communities together, it’s just diversity between everyone in Luton, or wherever, and they can just come together and just have a great time really.
Luton is a melting pot I’d say, it’s a very diverse community. It’s like all under one umbrella, but yet they’re individual groups, so you’ll see us all working in the same building. Although we’ll have our own personal challenges, in terms of space and urgency, it all gets done.
[ Carnival images 3:54 - 4:02 ]
It’s great fun, it’s all full of colours and full of joy, and I think nowadays we all need a bit of that. We started taking part in carnival 3 years ago, so we’re basically doing something as a Polish community involving young people in order to do something, to put our name, the Polish community, out there.
Thanks to Magda she got in touch with the carnival centre and we found out that we can actually do something in order to involve young people in creating something, so actually take part in carnival.
Now on the day when the sun is shining, hopefully it will be, we’ll be following lorries, so we’ll be playing music, and at the back we’re going to have our main construction. Every single group has got a main construction to kind of make them visible from the outside, so [??? 4:44] is working on our main construction at the moment. The girls over there are finishing, well we call it ‘tails’, so this is part of our costumes as well. It does have a theme; it is 20s and 30s of 20th Century. For the girls we’ve got a lot of feathers, a lot dingling things attached to our costumes, it’s all very colourful.
We did have a great help from the artists that work in carnival, Janet, Steve, Colin, these are people that showed us how to do everything initially. These artists have been working here for 25 years so they definitely know what they’re doing. We communicate with other groups, so whenever somebody is here that we don’t know we share ideas how to do it, and we also learn as we go.
You’d think that there would be some sort of competition because we’re all taking part in carnival; we’re all taking part in a parade. However it’s totally not like that, absolutely everybody’s helping each other, if you need a bit of glue, or a bit of feathers, a bit of help, everybody’s helping each other. There’s constantly something going on in the next room, so we’ve got music playing, we’ve got other groups training outside. It’s fantastic.
We are slightly nervous, especially today. We’ve been waiting for our teenage boys to show up; they still haven’t shown up, so we need to start making a few phone calls.
This is year 5 of wearing the big costume and about 7 years of doing the carnival as a group, because our group we do the carnival every year. It was fantastic, very lively. It didn’t rain, hey that’s the main thing, considering yesterday and earlier it was raining, so the sun actually came out so it’s been fantastic. We all pulled together, did the costumes, it always comes good in the end regardless. Even if it had rained we’d have still had a good time. All that midnight sewing [ laughs ]. It’s the biggest one day carnival in Europe so everybody looks forward to Luton Carnival.
It was amazing, probably one of the best carnivals I’ve been in.
Really, why was it so good?
Because it was something different to what we normally do. Usually we’re a separate group, but because we’re doing the Crossways Project it’s really more interesting, and it was really good that we got to go round by ourselves, without the rest of them, and then we joined on with the rest. It was definitely worth it, because it just brings everybody together, like a showcase of loads of different costumes and having fun in the community.
[ Carnival images of Rampage Mas Band celebrating 25 years at Luton International Carnival 7:11 – 8:06 ]
I’m working with Rampage. One of the things I’m working on presently is the Carnival Crossroads Project, celebrating each region, so you’ve got Ipswich, you’ve got Southend, we’ve got Luton, Cambridge, so each city or town is going to be displaying something that the city or the places are known for. Now Luton is known for many things, whether it be the colours of the football team, the colours of easyJet, the Luton Coat of Arms, Vauxhall, the carnival. Every town or location has chosen something they’d like to design to represent each town, so they’ll be telling a story as we parade.
I won’t say much because you can see a bit of the work behind me, so I’ll let you guys work out for yourselves the route that we’ve gone down. We’re working with quite a few schools, we’ve got Ashcroft and we’ve got Lea Manor. We’ve also got Sickle Cell, they’re a charity but they also take part in the carnival every year anyway so they’re quite experienced.
Well they learn the history of carnival, so whether it be Luton’s carnival, the West Indian style carnivals, more or less Trinidad originally, so it’s people’s chance to, I suppose, purge themselves, or release things they wouldn’t normally do through the year.
I’m quite hyper with knowing that we’ve got quite a lot to do in a short space of time. Rain is challenging us, and we do need to be able to do a lot of work outside so we can work on the costumes, so I’m doing my best to have an internal sun dance so we have beautiful weather for tomorrow, and also in order for these feather costumes to go out, you know the weather needs to be on our side really.
I have been doing the carnival since I was born and I’m 23. This is my costume. I would probably do it for someone else’s, but I’m taking a little more extra care because it’s my own thing.
It’s just nice and colourful and everyone has fun, you have a merry time, you walk down the road, you laugh with everyone, smile. It’s just a nice time for everyone to get together.
It’s a dream catcher and then on the top there’s an eagle, the head is actually down there, I can get it for you in a second, but I need to feather that one after I feather this one; a lot of feathers. I didn’t make the structure, I got guys called Colin and Steven, they made the whole structure, and then after that I put all the material on and all the sparkly bits you can see, so I think it looks pretty.
We’re all bands so there are loads of different sections. There’s a section that’s just got like back pole bits that are like warriors, and then there’s a dream catcher group, and then there’s a men warrior group, and then there’s loads of little children with maracas and stuff, so yes we’ve got quite a big band.
We’ve got a day, if that, maybe less than 24 hours [ laughs ]. I’ve only got 2½ hours until I have to finish this. If it’s about to rain it’s not too bad, but I just want tiny little bits really sunny otherwise my feathers are going to looked drowned and I’m going to have get a blow dryer and start blowing them out. Sun, sun, there’s going to be sun. All this hard work and stressing I’m doing now, tomorrow everyone will be like, ‘it looks beautiful’, so it kind of pays off in a way, so it’s nice.
[ Carnival images 11:39 – 11:44 ]
We live in town, we don’t usually come here very often but it is a very nice place. The people here as well are very friendly, very open and very helpful. This is what the Carnival Arts Centre offer to the people of Luton, somewhere to come side-by-side with each other. Dance on its own is a way to bring people together as well.
[ Carnival images 12:10 – 12:19 ]
Carnival is part of ‘Love Luton’, which will be a massive 3 day festival. Every year we take part, we take part and prepare a new set, it’s just fun for us to develop what we can do, our creative side, and also involve other people from the community to see what they can do. Yes it’s a great experience. I dance because I love it, I really love it, and dancing carnival is all about fun and enjoyment, you know people enjoying themselves and having a party really. It feels like, you know, anyone can be here, just come in and people will accept you. Yes it’s a really good space, a really good atmosphere here.
[ Carnival images 12:54 – 12:59 ]
We get funding through the UK CCA, and they also provide us with a designer. We come up with the ideas, and we can roughly tell what we want it to look like, but obviously because we’re not all from a carnival background, we’re not all artists, we can’t fine tune it, so then the designer would come in, he’ll draw it up for us ...
[ Carnival images 13:20 – 13:39 ]
… sometimes you have, you know, great ideas but it’s not always possible. Until you get down to actually making it you don’t realise what’s hard and what’s easy ...
[ Carnival images 13:52 – 14:08 ]
[ 14:09 ]
… you know it’s bright, it’s not dull, it’s not boring. It’s a free day for the family to come out, they don’t need to spend a lot of money, they can just come, enjoy themselves and go back home, so it’s a great day, especially during a recession.
[ 14:29 ]
To find energy when you thought your reserve tank was empty could only be from the audience, and the fact you’re doing something you really enjoy doing. In my opinion it’s a performance that you’re on stage. The minute you put on your costume, whether you’re actually walking in a procession or just waiting for the band to take off, you’re in character, so by being in character and then having your audience share the energy that you’re feeling and it’s bouncing back, regardless of the fact that you’re tired, regardless of the fact that you thought, are we going to finish, everything just disappears.
Seeing the smile on people’s faces takes everything away, so it’s a bit like childbirth, you forget the pain [ laughs ]. I’m expressing myself creatively and spiritually, as well as paying homage to my ancestors who started carnival, so there’s my grandfather’s brother, Uncle Sunny, my mum’s generation, my generation and now my niece’s. That’s the fourth generation.
It is a little bit political in some cases, but we do it with a smile. We all kind of gel it together whether it’s through choice or circumstances, and then this Crossroads Project has done the same thing as well, it’s brought a lot of groups together, because even whether it be dance rehearsals, if you didn’t know anyone before you’d get to know them in the dance rehearsals as well.
It was good, it was really good. I had a good time. The weather held out, it wasn’t too bad. I hoped for sun and I got some sun so I’m happy for that.
[ Carnival participants 16:14 ]
The thing is we’re not shy yes, we’re just doing what we want to do and this is the best. It’s important because, you know, some people are just standing in the house, they don’t go outside yes, they just go to work, come back, have a shower, go to sleep. Go outside and show yourself to other people yes.
Get to learn new cultures, listen to new music. I listen to mostly Polish music and here, come on I heard every kind of music.
We had fun, we enjoyed ourselves and that’s what it’s about I think.
It’s the feeling, it’s the music, and it’s the dancing and everything. Everyone’s happy.
It was absolutely fantastic. The weather was brilliant. Well it had been raining for a week so we were hoping it would be nice. It’s been wonderful. I’m absolutely knackered, my feet are killing me. I just want to get these shoes off, but it was brilliant, an absolutely brilliant experience.
When you take part you don’t see other people, other groups taking part, so I’m really looking forward to actually watching it back because, you know, I can’t remember anything from the past 3 hours, but it was great.
It started off to be raining, all morning it was raining but then the sun came out, the crowd was brilliant and all the costumes looked beautiful. Thanks to all the volunteers, all the members, all the committee members, everyone that helped out. We had such a great day, the music’s great; everyone’s got a smile on their face. There was a bit of rain around lunchtime but everyone had a smile on their face, everyone had a great day. I had a great day and just looking forward to the torch coming this evening.
[ 17:47 – 18:44 Olympic Torch images ]