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Sunday, October 07, 2007

The UK taking Carnival to another level!

I was pretty stunned to read today's online Guardian, detailing an article which says that the UK will be investing £13 million in 2008 in Carnival Arts... this from a country where Carnival in no way has a "birthplace"while we in Trinidad do not even have a concise history of Carnival in any type of recorded media!

After 42 years of merry mas in nearby Notting Hill, Her Majesty the Queen has finally decided to take this carnival thing seriously. More than £13 million will be spent on promoting carnival arts in the United Kingdom from next year.

Proposed UK Centre for Carnival Arts

A UK Centre for Carnival Arts will open its doors in Luton early next year, and a Carnival Education Resource Pack will be introduced into the primary school curriculum from September 2008.

The centre, which will be located in on the outskirts of London, has received close to £7 million, while an investment of £6.2 million will see children aged seven to 11 being taught the value and ingenuity of carnival arts.

In addition, the University of Bedfordshire will begin offering the UK’s first carnival arts degree.

The Centre will become “an expression of the living, breathing and evolving spirit of carnival arts,” according to its Web site (

It was always been my wonder why we, in Trinidad, have yet to encapsulate our Carnival heritage in the form of a Carnival museum, where the younger generation can visit , see photos and actual costumes of wining portrayals over the years as well as learn the historical roots of Trinidad Carnival. With the Government's proposed National Carnival Arts Centre I know there are plans to construct some sort of Carnival "museum" within the building, however when this will come to fruition no one knows since mas will be on the streets of Port of Spain again in 2008. From what I know I can see masqueraders parading on the streets for the next 3 years as absolutely no work has begun on this Carnival Centre, not even a contractor has been hired to date!

Plans for National Carnival Arts Centre Trinidad

Even more interesting about that Guardian article is the fact that Carnival will also be incorporated into the education curriculum, not only at the centre where workshops will be held for children and adults alike but also at the University of Bedfordshire which will offer a degree in Carnival Arts!

In the teaching and workshop spaces “people from all walks of life, united by a love of carnival, will be able to meet and share knowledge and resources.” Staff will be on hand to share their knowledge in areas including costume-making, business skills and music development......... It is hoped the centre will be a focal point for the nurturing of future carnival stars. Here artists and small business will receive advice about best practice, support in gaining funding or just have an inspiring chat with the pioneering staff.

The University of the West Indies ( UWI) Centre for Creative and Festival Arts also offers a B.A. in Carnival Studies, for those who are wondering what similar programs there are in the Caribbean. What I find lacking from UWI's offering are more Certificate or Diploma courses specifically geared at Carnival and mas making. Reading the planned projects for Luton's Carnival Arts Centre I am blown away by the fact that they are proposing to offer Carnival Education in colleges, schools and community groups, a much more holistic approach to Carnival Education than anything I am aware of in Trinidad.

Carnival Connections - community regeneration projects

The Carnival Connections programme is a full time post that delivers the Arts Generate project through an extensive carnival arts educational programme in schools and community/ youth groups. The project connects to various local and borough-wide community events (Mela, Black History month, St Patrick’s and St George’s Day) including the Luton International Carnival, where its main aim is to increase participation and improve the artistic quality and content of the event through the involvement of international and national carnival artists.

The Trust are currently working to produce the First Nationally acclaimed Carnival Foundation Degree Course with its partners Barnfield College and Luton University. The course structure has been developed and is currently being consulted with Carnival artists facilitated through an Education Sub Group of the Board. Courses will be Lunched March 2006.

Boroughwide & Regional Development

This part time strategic post is responsible for the carnival art developmental needs of groups boroughwide and regionally. It also develops awareness, understanding and appreciation of carnival arts, increasing opportunities for participation and development of new audiences through outreach workshops in schools and the community. A vibrant education based Carnival Arts Academy is being pursued, which requires liaison with local colleges, schools and University regarding accredited courses. This project seeks to establish income generation through winning contracts to support and develop carnivals nationally.

Carnival Essence - carnival archive project

This is a part time post and has recently secured £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery to produce Luton’s first Carnival archive recording memorabilia, costumes, and publicity as well as documenting oral and pictorial history of Luton’s diverse involvement in Carnival over the last 30 years. The project is launching the Archive film at the Library Theatre in Luton on Monday 15th August 2005.

It is intended that this project will extend to become a national Archive and resource within our proposed national Centre. A proposal is being developed for the national archive that will be shaped by a national steering group led by archive specialists from all related fields.

Arts development -Partake Project

Aimed at contributing to the regeneration of Luton's Bury Park and Lewsey Farm this exciting project will breathe new artistic life into these areas of Luton. With art workshops for community groups in Bury Park run by New Creations and visual arts activities in Lewsey Farm with a master class and artistic residencies in two schools run by Icknield Arts Association.

National Centre for Carnival Arts - making sure our vision for a centre of excellence is realised by 2007. For more details see the Centre section of our website.

Paul Hamlyn Educational project

The Trust has also secured £23,000 from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to produce Carnival Arts inset teacher-training package to enable teachers to implement Carnival Arts programmes without the support of Carnival artists. This project will extend and provide specialist carnival arts workshops targeting children learning at key stage 2 in the national Curriculum.

So as I wonder why a foreign country can see the importance of not only Carnival, but grooming the next generation to carry on the tradition I also ask myself why it is than they can get all this done to date and nothing has started on our own National Carnival and Arts Centre. Maybe we need the industrious Chinese immigrants who worked so fastidiously on the Prime Minister's ostentatious residence to start working on the National Carnival and Arts Centre or maybe we need a Government that actually cares about our Carnival and not only about using certain developments for political mileage.

Trinidad Guardian
Luton Carnival Arts Development Trust

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