Saturday 2nd August 2014

Rain failed to dampen spirits

Leicester’s annual Caribbean Carnival parade carried on regardless, despite the rain and crowds gathered along the roadside to watch the dancers and floats.

Lead Dancer, Caribbean Carnival, 2014
Lead Dancer, Caribbean Carnival, 2014

I can see why Radio Leicester was playing Don’t rain on my parade during its coverage of the start of the event, with Tony Wadsworth in the studio and Julie Mayer on Victoria Park. Interviewing carnival chairman Tony Sugar Christopher, Julie commented tat a few spots of rain were starting to come down, as the floats and dancers assembled for the start of the procession. The Bishop of Leicester, The Right Reverend Tim Stevens was there ready to give the procession his blessing, before its scheduled start at 1 pm. Sheltering under a tree, The Mayor, Peter Soulsby, commented on the importance of the event to the life of the city.

Dancers 1

Something must have delayed the start because the front of the procession did not reach the train station in London Road until 2 pm. By the time the few drops of rain had turned into a steady deluge. The last time the Carnival got this wet was in 2009, when we reported:

Heavy rain on Saturday 1st August drenched the dancers and floats of the Caribbean Carnival but failed to deter the crowds from turning out to see the floats and the parade. Armed with umbrellas, people lined the streets to see the procession go past and gathered at Victoria Park for the live shows and stalls. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]

Since then, most of the annual August events have benefited from fine weather. The parade made its way into he city centre, eventually arriving back at Victoria Park where there was a show tat included music stages and a variety of stalls and food outlets.

Dancers 7

For the first time this year, an admission fee was charged, on Victoria Park, to help cover some of the costs of putting on the show, which has always been a key part of the day’s events, along with the parade. As Tony Christopher explained in his radio interview, fund needed to meet the cost of the day have been hard to come by and even commercial sponsorships have been difficult to find this year.

Dancers 6

By 3.30pm the rain has stopped and the run had come out but by that time the tail end of the Parade would have been arriving back at Victoria Park after its circular route around the city centre. I spotted over 13 vehicle floats, as the parade went passed, each one with dancers and many with PA systems playing music.

Dancers 5

This was the 29th Carnival and in previous years that we have covered the event, we have reported on its significance for the city of Leicester. It took about 22 minutes for the whole parade to go passed and this year there was no shortage of spectacular costumes and well decorated floats. Groups of girls danced well choreographed routines, as well as mixed groups of male and female dancers.

Dancers 4

Caribbean Carnival has for many years been a multicultural event, whilst still celebrating the colour and vitality of the culture of the Caribbean. Not all cities in the UK are fortunate to have one of these annual fiestas. Carnivals are held each year in Acton, Birmingham, Brixton, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Huddersfield, Leeds, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Notting Hill, Northampton, Nottingham, Reading, Stoke on Trent and other places in England. They take place from May through to August in this country and also in other countries, including of course the Caribbean islands.

Dancers 3

Whatever the weather, the people of Leicester still turn out in large numbers to watch the parade and to attend the Victoria Park show.

Dancers 2

In August 2010 we reported

Now in its 25th year, the Caribbean Carnival was, as always, a great crowd puller. The people of Leicester turned out in their thousands to enjoy this wonderful celebration of culture, music and dance… This was a bumper year for the amazing costumes, huge, brightly coloured structures that must have taken many hours to make. The procession’s theme this year was “Celebrating our Caribbean Heritage” and Float 20 was particularly good. The exotic colours, styles and designs were richly redolent of the Caribbean and conjured up all the the vibrancy and magic of the islands.
The dancing groups included many children, some quite young but all of them keeping in time with the rhythm and clearly enjoying being part of this exciting event. People from all over the UK had come to Leicester to join the parade and a great many of them had spent a great many hours making costumes and learning dance routines. Some of the costumes were so massive, they needed wheeled frames to support them. In fact, it is possible to join costume-making workshops, to learn how these intricate structures are put together and decorated. Costume design is definitely an art-form and many of those seen today demonstrate considerable creativity and imagination. Several floats had banners on them acknowledging the funding sources, such as The Lottery or commercial sponsors. Creating these costumes costs a lot of money and the whole event cost a lot to put on. Carnival organisers have been appealing for donations as they have made a loss this year, given that public finance has been in such short supply.
Carnival is a great asset to Leicester, bringing thousands of people here from all over the country and offering one of the top tourist attractions of the year.
Carnival attracts people of all ages and some of the floats had been organised by youth groups and clubs. This year the weather was kind to carnival with only one brief shower of rain; otherwise the sky was mainly dry.
On Victoria park, there was a plentiful supply of stalls offering tasty Caribbean cuisine and quite a few stalls with cultural crafts and, of course, the main stage where the crowd could enjoy a variety of musical acts and dancers. [Arts in Leicestershire Magazine]

In 2011 we reported

Caribbean Carnival is a key date in Leicester’s events calendar. Each year the whole city looks forward to seeing this colourful and vibrant event. In previous years, the famous procession has wound its way through the centre of the city but this year it was confined to the perimeter of Victoria Park
The cuts had eaten into the festival’s finances. Nothing new about that. Festival organisers have faced big financial pressures in previous years. This year they had to decide between what they could do, with the money available, or no event at all.
Despite the smaller scale, the procession was no less wonderful than it ever has been. The costumes were amazing works of art, the sound system were out in force, albeit static this time and the the crowds still turned out to watch the colourful spectacle, so loved by the people of Leicester. The theme of this year’s parade was ‘myths, folklore and culture’. There were plenty of sound systems around to bring music to the dancers and there was the usual wide selection of food stalls offering Caribbean Cuisine. The weather was kind this year; a brief shower of rain shortly before the start soon gave way to a warm afternoon, cloudy with sunny spells but very comfortable for those who had settled in to enjoy the atmosphere and entertainment on the park. Carnival is the perfect place to be for lovers of Calypso, Reggae, Soca, and Gospel. There was plenty of it, either from the various sound systems, from live bands and on the main stage. Despite its move away from the City Centre to being confined to Victoria Park, about 20,000 turned out to enjoy the fun, according to the BBC.

The show on Victoria Park, this year,  included performances organised by Cyrlene Braithwait, from City Link Up, who told us:

What a day yesterday! The City Link Up Caribbean Carnival Showcase was AMAZING! Every single one of you artists SMASHED IT and gave the Leicester people a show they all thoroughly enjoyed! Big up Dantanna, Teon T Foster, Nuala Bennett-Wilford, Kezia Johnson, Clinarke Dill, James Byron Norval, Jah Marnyah, Tanni Browne, Greyce, MC Mad-X, Bernard Best, D-Soul Okosisi, Merki LabTv Waters, Deevine, Jason Darealfuture Newton thank you all for keeping it professional turning up to sound check and giving your all on stage! I feel blessed and privileged to have met and worked with you all! Your talents and energy are truly AMAZING! Keep up the good work and go get what’s yours! Big up my City Link Up, Deano Presto & Fives Jungle been by my side from DAY 1 nuff love & respect to you!

Watch these videos on You Tube

Citylinkup Carnival MC 5IVE-0, MAD-X, JAH MARNYAH, B BEST

D-Soul and his FULL PERFORMANCE at Leicester Caribbean Carnival. 

See also:

#Rent – our review of the new musical at Curve

#Street Dance opportunities

#Leicester’s black music history celebrated.