A rainy start didn’t dampen the mood of the thousands of revellers enjoying themselves at the Caribbean Carnival on Saturday.
The sun came out in time for the parade, which started on one of the paths through the park, near the war memorial. Onlookers lined both sides, waiting to watch the troupes of dancers pass in a flurry of bright colours and sequins. The costumes ranged from masquerade to monarchs and from prisoners to a peacock with a tail made from huge silk strips reaching up to the sky.
In previous years the parade has made its way through the city centre but this year, due to funding cuts, the entire event was staged at Victoria Park. Some of the carnival-goers thought this was a shame and that the parade was much better when it went through the city centre.
I spoke to Duke, who was selling whistles at the carnival. He said, “The city’s ideal. Here the floats can’t fit through the trees.” Low hanging branches were a problem for the procession; one dancer’s costume caught in the branches and a piece broke off.
Duke believed that if the parade had to be held through the park, it should have been better organised, with music lining the route or as part of the procession. “The idea is music, carnival is music. They (all the different troupes) all have their own routine. Without the songs, how are they going to carry the routine?”
Some people were less bothered about the parade. Hardeep has been going to the carnival for 4 years and said, “To be honest, I don’t really watch the parade. I come here for the music.”
He had come to see Abu Shanti, a regular performer at the carnival, loved by many for his chilled-out reggae. “I’ve always been into reggae, Bob Marley and Abu Shanti. I make music. He definitely inspired me to get into music.”
When you walked into Victoria Park, one of the first things you noticed was the tantalising smell, with one of the paths lined entirely by stalls offering ‘a taste of the Caribbean’. Grills filled with jerk chicken sent smoke spiralling skywards and people sat munching goat curry from polystyrene containers.
There was a fair for the children. Everything to keep younger members of the family entertained with bouncy castles, fairground rides, ‘hook a duck’ to win prizes and stalls selling candyfloss.
The carnival had something for people from every part of the world, whether young or old. Some people watched the parade, some listened to the music, others simply sat in the sun with friends. The stall holders and parade dancers were welcoming and friendly to everyone, creating an atmosphere somewhere between partying and relaxation. I would recommend it to everyone for a brilliant day out for all the family or with a few friends.