Monday, 22 August 2016

Monday 22nd August: Notting Hill Carnival Mas Camps - Flamboyan International Carnival Arts

 Flamboyan Arts run by Gloria Cummins is as truly glorious as her name.  From the Trinidad flag hanging out of the window, to the Trinidadian tinsel trimming kept in spectrum order on the bookshelves - this is the authentic Carnival Mas Camp.  Founded in premises along the W9 Notting Hill Carnival route in 1986, it  has evolved into a real-time living museum to the art form.  As soon as you enter the ground floor of the town house, walls are covered in relics of costumes and Caribbean paraphernalia.  Painted designs and sketches are tacked up alongside paper clippings and historical photo montages.   A reoccurring face in the mix is of Gloria's co-founder and late husband Larry Ford whose legacy is intrisic to each year's new direction.  His mantra of "Nothing Beats Experience" is emblazoned on the band's T-Shirt artwork for the 2016 theme "Wear In The World".  This title doubles up for both the act of playing mas and wearing innovation, but also the story of the world with different countries being represented in each section of their parade.  Designs incapsulate all continents from India to Greece, Africa to Japan and The U.S via New Orleans.  Within this artwork are also the two birds from the crest of the Trinidad & Tobago coat of arms, which is at the heart and root of everything from Flamboyan.  Here you can see a print of an etching from 1888, depicting early carnival in the Port of Spain, showing the procession led by the devil character like a Pied Piper. Traditional Carnival characters like these will appear in this year's cast but given a contemporary twist so that the "Jab Jab" is combined with an Italian clown jester.  This particular modern re-invention was a suggestion from an assistant who is at the studio on work experience and part of the Flamboyan scheme for providing apprentice placements.  His skill is in fine-art and his canvases hang amongst the artwork's on the walls since Gloria held an exhibition of his paintings.  His portraits of Pierrots with beautiful crisp ruffles are currently being translated into silk bloomers on the pattern-cutting table.    
I was like Charlie entering The Chocolate Factory when I visited and didn't realise I had spent nearly two hours looking around!  I absolutely love the essence of Carnival in its purest form being carried thru from generation to generation in this way.  I cant wait to see how it all comes together this weekend, especially the "Midnight Robber" which is getting a hat so big that it was taking up a whole table to be decorated with fringing.  I'll be snapping away on the day, so check back to see the final results from the road ..........

Check out the Flamboyan website to find out how to get involved and learn the arts of mas and play steel pan.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Saturday 20th August: Notting Hill Carnival Mas Camps - UCOM

Following on from my previous post at M2K Mas, to one of the next generation who originally trained with their education programme - UCOM (United Colours Of Mas).  Designer Paul O'Donoghue  swept up last year's Notting Hill Carnival award for a spectrum of hues across the costume band culminating in a rainbow queen.  The success of this colour palette has left an inspirational wake in its path with other groups incorporating multi-colour into their themes this year.  Therefore, if you want to see future trends in Carnival art direction, UCOM is the name to watch.  
Attention to detail is perfected for each look.  As you see here, Fred is dismantling a silver chain and re-mounting it's azure crystals onto gold links to match the rest of the midas concept that celebrates the 50 years of Notting Hill Carnival.  "MythOdyssey" is the 2016 story for UCOM, split into many subsections including "Sirens", "Flights of the Phoenix" and "Pandoras Box".  For that reason every spare piece of space at the HQ is used as storage for completed pieces ready for collection and previous samples.  To add to that, Paul also takes on commissions of production for other Mas bands, so it's literally the most feathers per square foot that I have ever seen.  Each ceiling is dripping with lines of headdresses and corridors of rails of shoulder pieces....... not to mention desks for all hands on deck to construct more.
UCOM will have a presence all over this year's Notting Hill Carnival from their purple pigments at the Sunday morning "Jouvert" opening ceremony thru Sunday's family day and Monday's grand finale.  Keep an eye out for large glittering gold wings sailing down the parade to spot these Masqueraders appearing en mas.     

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Wednesday 17th August: Notting Hill Carnival Mas Camps - M2K

Although Notting Hill Carnival takes place on a route around W9, the parade of floats is comprised of mas bands who have camps spread out across the whole city.  During the rest of the 363 days of year, every postcode of London has it's own hive of carnival activity hidden away in spaces that can accommodate the grand scale production.  For instance M2K (Masquerade 2000) are renowned for voluminous King & Queen costumes which not only require large surface area for creating but also storage.  Here are images from their HQ in Leyton where their history of artworks hang from the rafters and are stacked up in racks out the back like a museum volt.   This archive is brimming with shimmering sails of satin and sequins on steel frames which attach to tailored harnesses and corsets.  Luckily and uniquely this team have an on-site welder to construct these elaborate engineered designs.  Above you can see a sketch of wings from this year's theme "Resurrection of Eden" and also the frame which is taking shape to replicate the vision.  
M2K's MO is to support new designers helping nurture the art-form in the next generation so that the Carnival Arts can continue.  For example when I showed my photos from their section at Hackney Carnival, a girl was pointed out who has just graduated and been with the band since she was four.  Infact one of my very favourite memories from children's day last year was their baby in a pink decorated pram / float which melted the hearts of everyone in the crowd - see here!
Across the road from M2K's camp is another flourishing designer who once trained under the inspirational guidance of their programme.............. see my next post on UCOM.