Friday 4 September 2015

Friday 4th September: Notting Hill Carnival - Dedication to Russell Henderson MBE

2015 is the 50th anniversary of NottingHill Carnival.  As there is debate over the actual year that the fete was founded, it has been spread across three years with the celebration dedicated to a different aspect each year .  Last year was all about the steel pan, this year focused on the emergence of carnival with the family day and next year will be all about Mas (costume).  Only a few days before this year's Carnival one of the seminal pioneers passed away, age 91.  Russell Henderson MBE came to London from Trinidad in 1951 as a young jazz musician and started up "The Russ Henderson Steel Band".   In 1964 activist Rhaune Laslette held a children's pageant in Portabello and invited Russell's band to open the event.  The players of the hand-held pans started to walk to take the music along the gathered crowds.  This, as legend has it, was the beginning of what we now know as the procession through the streets of Notting Hill today.  
At Monday's finale there were dedications to Russell's memory with his most recent band "Panectar" leading a tribute to honour his role in the shaping of the Carnival.  Here you can also see my photo from Sunday's opening show with calypsonian Alexander D Great  performing a song he wrote for the dedication with the lyrics:

"With your inspiration and dedication, Russell Henderson will always be the Pan Man"

The carnival initially came about from a community coming together and taking action to strengthen the relationships and support within their neighbourhood.  It's this pure essence that the committee currently want to reinstate, so that whilst we celebrate its 50th birthday, we can bring back that purpose.  The emphasis should be on how the event brings people together to volunteer over the course of the year to put on the show.  Its not just a party.  Its about getting young people social and creative to learn skills passed down to continue the art and tradition.  Its about each borough having its own band and inspiring the next generation to get involved.  This is the message and one I'm going to continue investigating, exploring and sharing from here till next year ................. and what a lush prospect is that!  I'm looking forward to the year of MAS in 2016!!!!   

(Thank you Chantal Des Vignes & Justin Des Vignes for the two original archive photos from a J'Ouvert parade with Russell pictured centre)

Thursday 3 September 2015

September 3rd: Notting Hill Carnival - J'ouvert

My final post about Notting Hill Carnival comes from the early start on Sunday morning when I woke up at 5am to get over to Ladbroke Grove for the "J'ouvert" opening ceremony which runs from 6-9am.  This is the traditional sunrise start of smearing yourself with mud or paint to symbolise the oil used as camouflage from civil disturbances in Trinidad, and in remembrance of the emancipation from slavery.  Therefore a "JabJab" Carnival character is full body makeup of slick black paint, horn headwear and chains wrapped around, trailing down.  That is the most classic aesthetic but has morphed into any variation of covering yourself in pigment and has become a multi-colour explosion of primary and pastel splashes.  As soon as I cycled in someone asked me why I was so clean, then doused me with blue poster paint, shortly followed by someone else grabbing my face and hair with a hand of black tar-like liquid.  That was my initiation.  A few cloud bombs of talcum powder later and I made a mental note of all the other girls outfits of shower caps and paper boiler suits.  This was my favourite part of the whole Carnival this year because Ive never done it before and like all London early starts, it felt like a special pocket of time, sacred for only those awake to see it.  Soon the roads would be filled like crushed sardines but for a few hours it was just ours, and a long tarmac canvas to Jackson Pollock our way along.  Although I was totally inappropriately and naively dressed in my Keith Haring print dancing attire, I think Keith would have been pleased.

Thursday 3rd Sept: Notting Hill Carnival - Monday Parade / The Grand Finale

After the initial children's parade on Sunday, the Mas bands pull out all the stops and bring out all the costumes for the grand finale.  Here is a mix of some of those looks to show the broad spectrum of colours and techniques including from top to bottom:  United Colours Of Mas, Airam Designs, TouchDSky's Moko Jumbie stilt walkers, Sunshine International Arts, Resurrection Carnival, Flagz Mas Band, Tropical Isles, Bacchanalia.  It has been a great honour for me to have come on board as Patron for the Carnival Art & Masquerade Foundation of Notting Hill Carnival and I have learnt so much in the past weeks.  From visiting the Mas Camps to see where the costumes were being made and dance routines being choreographed, it helped me identify and appreciate each one as they rolled into view.  I stood for the duration of both days snapping away and capturing the buzz to document this crucial art form.  I half suspect I may be involved in helping making something again next year so I enjoyed every minute of being free to witness the spectacle as a punter.  Its truly the most joyous annual experience I look forward to more than Christmas.  I really wish that one day I may be able to visit the original Trinidad & Tobago Carnival ............... putting the fete feelers out there..............
The highlight of the whole weekend was running down the road after a rainbow and when she turned round, it turned out to be Angel Dee from RunDemCrew who I know!  Magic!    
(Top photo with Sophia Wassiville Joseph a.k.a Miss Trinidad & Tobago UK 2014) 

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Wednesday 2nd Sept: Notting Hill Carnival 2015 , Sound-Systems

Aside from the parade of Notting Hill Carnival are the 38 sound-systems set up around the route of W10 including Abi Shanti and Channel One which I headed to in the evenings.  Here I saw three generations of one family out together dancing in amongst the throng of the cross-generation crowd, all celebrating the exceptional spectacle.  "One Love" certainly applies at this end-of-summer blast which brings the whole city in unison, irrespective of any divide.  The music unites and has every single body bopping in time with smiles brimming and bubbling over the bass.

Hear 2 hours of sound-system tunes c/o WorkIt's Carnival special show on NTSLive with a little interview with me about the work of CAMF - here

(Pictures top to bottom:  Thanks to Peace, Love & Unity for my Kente bucket hat - pic by Alex Cunningham, Amira  McCarthy, Core On Tour squad,  spectrum hair streetstyle, Abi Shanti, Channel One, Iridescent boot street style, me keeping dry in the rain thanks to Miss. GoodWeather iridescent cape - pic by Naomi Edmondson, Rough Trade West on Talbot Road's fresh painted shutter of Jamie XX's album artwork "In Colour")  

Wednesday 2nd Sept: Notting Hill Carnival 2015 , Panorama

"Panorma" is the steel pan opening concert for Notting Hill Carnival on the Saturday night prior to the parade over the weekend.  Just like the main fete, its a competition with each band practising final rehearsals in the street before taking main stage infront of the judging panel audience.  I strolled along and captured the national bands gathered for the night's celebration of the Caribbean tradition with "Ebony" winning this year's champaign award, "Real Steel" scooping 2nd and "Mangrove" coming 3rd .