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Thursday, January 08, 2015

Memories - George Bailey Trinidad Carnival's Greatest Bandleader. A Film by Aldric G. Bailey

Take a look at this short film by Aldric Bailey that look s back at the life, works and achievements of the legendary mas man, band leader George Bailey and the legacy of that creative hub called Buller Street.

A Film by Aldric G. Bailey

"In 1959, Your Uncle George, the most famous of all the bandleaders, had produced Relics of Egypt... 
To me, Relics Of Egypt, was a continuation of Cecil B. De Mille's "The Ten Commandments"
and then he went on to win 3 more consecutively, that would be '59, '60, '61 and '62
But... In your Uncle's band... 
There was a... an individual who to me is the greatest individual in the History of Carnival, throughout The World... 
Because he is the first and only person ever, to produce a costume, that transcends all civilizations...
Which is really the concern of all men... 
Stipulated when the reknown English poet Keats, said, 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,' — that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
John Keats - English Poet 1795 - 1821
Well, the individual, Terrence Evelyn, more popularly known as "Terry", produced a costume called, "Beauty in Perpetuity"
Obviously it would be difficult nay, nearly impossible, to produce a costume like that even every ten (10) years, but, to me, that is where we went, (I don't want to say "wrong") but we didn't try at least to keep up, with what that fella was saying... 
That the most important thing on the Earth is "Beauty" 
That is what, I think, we have lost...
Carnival needs, people like your Uncle, Evelyn, get Minshall, back into the arena...
Because no one I t hink, would like to go to Madrid, and go into The Bullring, and then you are told, "The best Bullfighter isn't facing the bulls"
Which is what we are really seeing here... People come to Trinidad and Minshall isn't producing a band and he is alive, people come here and Evelyn is not on the stage and he is alive...
[It] comes back again to what I had mentioned, what Uncle George say... "Tears of The Indies"... 

I, again, like I say, I'm on the outside looking in... and I was born in a time when, with respect, you know 15 Buller Street... I don't need to tell you, there used to be the empty lot behind... Several costumes, have gone over that wall to make their way up to the savannah to compete, King and Queen of the Bands...
I've lso heard stories of 15 Buller Street, being a Mecca of craftsmanship, Everything used to take place from screen printing to leather craft to papier mache to macrame to, you know, all of these crafts... 
It was like... ummm... A University of sorts, a repository of creative genius... 
That is where, when your Uncle decided to play The Realm of Fancy Bats and Clowns, it was from that, call it, potpourri, that Evelyn would choose to play "Beauty in Perpetuity"... so... you have to give...
Something went on in 15 Buller Street, it's there that Evelyn I understand, would sit down and be making these circles and circles...
So 15 Buller Street needs to be investigated and I don't mean 15 Buller Street alone, but all who came out of 15 Buller Street, like, the young boy, Stephen Derek, who is a, who is the main product of your father... So that... That's why I told you in the beginning Aldric, I really don't know..."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

We Kind ah People The Trinidad Carnival Masquerade bands of Stephen Lee Heung by Tang and Funk.

It is argued in some circles that Trinidad and Tobago does not have an intellectual culture. While there is a culture of political tribalism and plenty debate along such lines in the public discussion, there is not a critical popular public discourse on the history and social significance of  art forms such as mas, thus there is hardly ever any discussion on or about the people who made Trinidad carnival the greatest show on earth.

And even less books on the subject.

While there are articles on various mas men and band leaders written in magazine and news paper articles there are not much books written on the works of these artist or the impact and importance of their contribution to carnival history and the history of the wider society.

For example in my personal  collection of books, you can find, fashion books on Mugler, Lacroix and Rabanne, art books on Giger, Warol and Chagall, stage set and costume design books on Taymore and Ishioka , and yet, I have only ever got my hands on published books on  Wayne Berkeley and Peter Minshall. when it comes to mas, despite the fact that mas and mas bands go back to the  emancipation period in history.

Cover: We Kind ah people
In the period known as the golden age of carnival alone, there is a pantheon of mas men whose work,
talent, productions and philosophies have given  Trinidad carnival the reputation of being the greatest show on earth. As individuals, these artists may have each compiled a body of work to rival any master of art or fashion in Europe or America. Yet there are a lack biographies or documented collections on these men and women and their works.

‘We Kind ah people the Trinidad carnival Masquerade Bands of Stephen Lee Heung’, by George Tang and Ray Funk, Is however a recently published book that has in a small way documented some of the work of the late bandleaders productions.
The book takes the reader on a photographic voyage through some of Lee Heung’s presentations, from 1974 through to 1994, giving some insight of each of those presentations and the people behind them.

1987 Cocoyea Village. Pg63 in the book.
The Lee Heung name and presence was an important part of Port of Spain’s carnival genealogy and the history of Trinidad carnival. If Lee Heung and associates was a football club or basketball team it would be an all star team. Lee Heung’s band probably more than any other band boasts some of the most eminent names in mas, to come out of, or work under any one banner.

Reading this book I got the impression that Stephen Lee Heung, a product of the golden age seemed to have the eye of a strategist, choosing talents to design and work with, that ensured the Lee Heung name was in winners row (top 3) for most of four decades, securing both the lee Heung legacy and the establishment of those that worked under his organisation.  
To understand the creatively epic period in which Lee Heung existed in, and the rich intellectual environment that that flourished during that time, there is a passage in the book   that explains the production  of the band ‘Japan land of Kabuki’ in 1964 his first band after an absence of several years, the band came,

...third after George Bailey and Harold Saldenah...some were seriously impressed including the then Trinidad Guardian arts reporter and later Nobel prize winning poet and dramatist Derek Walcott...”

As a source of information on Lee Heung and his presentations, the book is informative, while it is not a biography, the book does provide a little information on his origins, that he came from a mas family, but nothing on what were the external influences on him. The book also reveals his efforts in exporting mas around the globe. 

With about 158 photos in 120 pages there is a lot to see of the Lee Heung legacy but it is also evident that  there is still a lot that has not been revealed especially of the 1980s which would have been designed mostly by the late Wayne Berkley.

While photos of George Tang , are beautiful and capture the spirit of these past carnivals they lack the quality seen in books such as  the late Noel Norton’s  book, ‘20 years of Trinidad carnival’ the photos seem dark, sharpness and details are lost in shadows, however because of the scale of the costumes standards and headpieces shields and capes there is still that impact of the spectacular.
The images also provide evidence that the 20th century was definitely the zenith of expression and creativity in Trinidad’s carnival and if we dig deeper into this period the assent of the golden age probably goes hand in hand with the intellectual rise of the wider society of TT.

Comparing  the themes and costumes of Lee Heung to those of popular bands today, it is clear that the carnivals of, History, geography, literature, Royalty and nationality has been overrun by a light weight quasi fantasy mas, with the dominating emphasis on an invisible ‘service’ and not the tangible art form that could be photographed and admired.   

Because 'We kind of people' is published by Tang and Funk in Hardcover, it comes at a somewhat high price of TT475, this can be seen as hefty when compared to Michael Anthony’s ‘The Carnivals of Trinidad and Tobago’, or Hollis Liverpool’s Rituals of power and Rebellion, two titles that come with considerably more history within the pages of the books.
 (Maybe a soft cover edition may be a good idea)

That being said we kind ah people does ‘ hold it's corner’ for what it is and will make a valuable addition to any personal library of carnival literature or carnival study collections.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Caribbean Origins of the Dancing Inflatable Man

Roman Mars’ podcast 99% Invisible covers design questions large and small, from his fascination with rebar to the history of slot machines to the great Los Angeles Red Car conspiracy. Here at The Eye, we cross-post new episodes and host excerpts from the 99% Invisible blog, which offers complementary visuals for each episode. This week's edition—about inflatable men—can be played below. Or keep reading to learn more.
You see them on street corners, at gas stations, at shopping malls. You see them at blowout sales and grand openings of all kinds. Their wacky faces hover over us, fall down to meet us, and rise up again. Their bodies flop. They flail. They are men. Men made of tubes. Tubes full of air. Depending upon your tastes, they are either full of ridiculous joyful exuberance or the tackiest thing in the world.

 A number of cities across the U.S. have actually banned the use of tube guys. An ordinance in Houston enacted in 2008 proclaims that a dancing tube guy “contributes to urban visual clutter and blight and adversely affects the aesthetic environment.” Some may see them as visual clutter now, but they have ancestry in stunning works of Caribbean art.

'Air Dancer'

 The tube guy origin story begins with celebrated artist and “mas man” Peter Minshall. He made a name for himself in Trinidad and Tobago (and beyond) for his Carnival bands, featuring larger-than-life puppets that dance through the street to the beat of Calypso music. In the early 1990s, Minshall had gained fans among members of the planning committee for the Olympics. In 1995, he found himself in a stadium in Los Angeles working with a bunch of different artists, trying out different ideas for the opening ceremonies for the Atlanta Games the following year.

 As Minshall tells it, he was trying to do something using inflatable tubes, but it wasn’t working. And then Minshall realized that if they were made to look like people, they would dance just like people did back home in Trinidad and Tobago—limpid, loose, and graceful. Minshall and his team had conscripted a Los Angeles–based artist named Doron Gazit to realize the vision of the tube guys (or, as Minshall calls them, “tall boys”).
                         fly guys ' 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games

Gazit was tapped for his experience working with inflatables, which he had done since his youth in Israel. So Gazit and Minshall’s tube guys made an appearance in the 1996 Olympic opening ceremony, and that was the first the world had ever seen of these inflatable men. But how did they go from a thing we saw at the Olympics once—an art piece—to a thing you see at every used car lot in America? After the Olympics, Gazit applied for a patent for “apparatus and method for providing inflated undulating figures” in 2001.

He then began licensing its use through his company, Air Dimensional Designs This became a point of tension between Gazit and Minshall; Minshall had been unaware of Gazit’s intention to patent and monetize the inflatable figure. Gazit, for his part, says that he applied for a patent because he put a lot of research and development into making the “Fly Guys” (as Gazit calls them), and he was already starting to see other people rip off his efforts. These days, Gazit has mostly moved on from these figures, though he does continue to work with inflatables. You may have seen his set design for BeyoncĂ©’s 2013 Super Bowl halftime show:

However, Gazit’s company does continue to license its patent to various companies that manufacture and sell vertical inflatables. One such company is LookOurWay, which sells both “AirDancers” and “Air Rangers.” Turns out that vertical inflatables also make for good scarecrows. Farmer Gary Long, who helped develop the Air Rangers, says that bird damage in his orchard of honey crisp apples went from 20,000 pounds a year to zero. 
This episode was produced by Sam Greenspan, with additional reporting from Sam Dean,


Saturday, November 01, 2014

40 years of Hip Hop by KRS-One

A most valuable lecture on Hip Hop consciousness, culture, products, and celebrity, by the living legend ‘KRS ONE’. Every now and then I post something hip hop on my blog, and it’s because hip hop culture and carnival culture are descendants of the same root culture, and are both subject to the same type of external entities that commercialise them, corrupting the magic of the original art forms. Listen to KRS ONE if you will, replace hip hop with mas or carnival if you must, see the parallels and connect the dots.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


5th Biannual Steelpan Conference
University of East London
Cass School of Education
Stratford Campus 
11th - 12th October 2014

“Many tributaries make a mighty river”. We must therefore celebrate and acknowledge all the
Known and unknown contributors who have helped to establish the Notting Hill Carnival in
Britain. With over 50 years of history there are many moments and individuals to celebrate
and much to analyse.

Establishing the Caribbean Carnival in Britain is a great achievement against fearsome odds.
In spite of the raw aggression, racism, scheming and non-cooperation of the British
authorities, what has been achieved at Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s largest festival of
popular culture.

Notting Hill Carnival is an established part of a global Caribbean Carnival diaspora with an
annual cycle of carnivals which span from North America, the Caribbean to Europe and as far
as the Seychelles and Japan.

Like all Caribbean Carnivals Notting Hill carnival has within it opposing cultural forces the
Camboulay v Mardi Gras traditions.
The Caribbean Carnival culture was brought to Britain during the migration of Caribbean
peoples after World War 2. It was carried in the, heart, minds and blood of those from all over
the Caribbean. As my father John La Rose stated “We did not come alive in Britain”. Many
Caribbean people, known then as “West Indians “, were workers in the NHS, British Rail and
London Transport but they were also musicians, masqueraders, folk dancers, carnival
designers and calypsonians. They made a deep impact on Britain with their vibrant culture,
music, dress style, language and food.

But what is the story of over 50 years of the Notting Hill Carnival?
The Caribbean Carnival in Britain was born as a direct response to the August 1958 Notting
Hill Race Riots. Oswald Mosley’s fascist Black shirt organisation based in Latimer Road and
the White Defence League incited gangs of young white “Teddy Boys” to roam the area in
their thousands to attack mixed race couples and black people in the streets chanting “Let’s
lynch the niggers!”. The police did not intervene.

The Caribbean peoples, whatever island they came from, organised united and attacked the
racists with force. One of the leaders of these fierce Caribbean fighters was Baron Baker.
They attacked with Molotov cocktails, knives, stones, cutlass and ambush. They defeated the
racist gangs and then the police intervened and arrested the defenders.
Racial tension continued to be high in the area and in May 1959 an Antiguan carpenter and
law student Kelso Cochrane was murdered by white youths on Southam Street off Golbourne 
Road. Thousands of black and white people turned out for Kelso Cochrane’s funeral it was the
start of a fledgling anti-racist movement in Britain. His racial murder remains unsolved. The
book “Beyond the Mother Country; The Notting Hill white riots” by Edward Pilkington is a
good account of all these events.

Claudia Jones the editor of the newspaper “West Indian Gazette and Afro Asian News”, was a
Trinidadian cultural and political activist deported from the USA. In direct response to these
events she established a committee to put on the “West Indian Gazette Caribbean
Carnival” at St Pancras Town Hall in 1959. She understood the unifying power of the
Caribbean Carnival and wanted to establish carnival in Britain as a showcase for the art and
talent of Caribbean people. Although there had been attempts to have parades in Powis
Square in Notting Hill before, these were indoor carnivals as it was too cold in Britain between
January and March, the traditional pre-Lenten Carnival season.

In the following 6 years the “West Indian Gazette CaribbeanCarnivals” were a fabulous
success. They moved from St Pancras Town Hall, Seymour Hall and other venues in West
London. The Carnivals were packed and filmed by the BBC. MPs attended along with High
Commissioners; there was a mas competition, steel bands, calypsonians like the Mighty
Sparrow and other performers. Claudia Jones famously wrote in the Carnival brochure “A
peoples art is the genesis of their freedom”. Claudia Jones died of chronic heart disease in
Christmas 1964. There was no indoor carnival in 1965. On the 50th anniversary of Claudia
Jones death, Savannah View as part of the African Odysseys programme at the British Film
Institute (BFI), screened the film “Looking for ClaudiaJones” directed by Nia Reynolds in
celebration of a great woman and leader.

Another woman entered the story of carnival in Britain. Rhaune Laslett or Miss Las was an
English social worker committed to the welfare of immigrants in the North Kensington slum of
Notting Hill. The novels “Lonely Londoners” by Samuel Selvon and “Absolute Beginners”
by Colin MacInnes capture the essence of this lively, poverty-stricken area in this period. The
district had a reputation for being home to predatory landlords preying on a large immigrant
community of Spanish, Irish and Caribbean residents. It was also the base of radical,
alternative groups and communes like the London Free School, an advice centre at 34
Tavistock Crescent and the Notting Hill Peoples Association who campaigned to get private
parks in the Colville area unlocked for use by everyone.

With her numerous Caribbean friends and clients it is hard to believe that Miss Las had not
known about Claudia Jones’ Caribbean Carnival. But Rhaune Laslett’s Notting Hill Carnival
was not initially the Caribbean Carnival of Claudia Jones, although the festival had similar
aims. The first Notting Hill Carnival wanted to recall the “Peoples’ fayres and pageants” of
the early history of the Notting Hill area.

The first Notting Hill Carnival in 1965 was an outdoor parade through the streets on August
bank holiday Monday. It was a multicultural festival electrified by Russell Henderson’s steel
band combo who played regularly at the Colherne pub in Earl’s Court. There was also a Nell
Guinn costume, Ginger Johnson’s African Messengers band and a inter- pub darts match. It
was later transformed into the Caribbean Carnival we know today. There was no clear vision
for the Notting Hill Carnival at this point. The local radical groups involved with its organisation
renamed the festival as the Peoples Free Carnival for a short time.

It was not until the early 1970s that a recognisable Caribbean Carnival emerged under a new
Caribbean leadership of Granville Pryce, Selwyn Baptiste, Junior Telfer and Merle Major
amongst others. Later in 1973 Leslie “Teacher” Palmer stepped in to a crisis when there was
no Notting Hill Carnival organiser. With the help of Anthony Perry of the North Kensington
Amenity Trust who were responsible for developing the land under the Flyover and Granville
Pryce, Leslie Palmer galvanised everyone. He had a plan and vision.

He introduced local 3 music bands and Reggae sound systems in to Notting Hill Carnival
 to attract British born blackyouth. 
Although masquerade bands had been in Carnival since Ashton Charles’ fancy sailor
band in 1969, they had not lasted long. Leslie Palmer convinced Lawrence Noel, Mack
Copeland and Peter Minshall to bring out mas bands. Notting Hill Carnival now became a
Caribbean Carnival and national festival with 15,000 attending. Pioneer Soca sounds like Lord
Sam, and Shadow Hi Fi also played in the bays under the Flyover.

But success brings problems ......
By the mid 1970s Notting Hill carnival was attracting the attention of the police and local white
residents’ associations who wanted the festival banned. 1975 saw threats of a court injunction
and a huge petition against carnival displayed by Commander Patterson of the Metropolitan
Police. But this was just a prelude the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976 saw police invade the
carnival area with ten times more police than any previous year. Inevitably a riot broke out.
The police were routed by the black youth. The Metropolitan Police have never forgiven the
Notting Hill Carnival for this crushing defeat. It is strange how history repeats itself, in Trinidad
in 1881 the Camboulay Riots established the carnival in Trinidad forever after attempts by
the colonial authorities attempted to stop it.

There were calls for Notting Hill Carnival to be banned by the Home Secretary and the press.
The carnival leadership, a new organisation called the Carnival Development Committee
CDC, which elected Selwyn Baptiste as director Darcus Howe chair and Larry Forde secretary
produced the publication “The Road Make to Walk on Carnival Day; The struggle for the
West Indian Carnival in Britain” a powerful mandate for the existence of the Notting Hill
Carnival. The CDC was successful in keeping Notting Hill Carnival on the streets.

Notting Hill Carnival was still financially independent in this period. Its income came from stall
holders’ fees, regular Sunday fetes at the Tabernacle inPowis Square, the home of the
Carnival, with music by steel bands on rotation and sounds like China Funk, Black Patch and
Peoples War Sound System. The majority of the income for the carnival came from the annual
Carnival Gala at the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street. But this financial
independence was taken away by the locking out at the Tabernacle and refusal to allow the
CDC to book the Commonwealth Institute. At the same time the Home Office formed and
funded a rival committee the Carnival Arts Committee CAC which undermined unity and
forever divided the carnival community. It was divide-and-conquer tactics.

Stability and progress returns..... for a short while
In the 1980s Alex Pascal was the chair of the CAC. He had a new vision for the carnival and
received support and new funding from the progressive Greater London Council (GLC) lead
by Ken Livingstone. The leaders of all political parties sent greetings to the Notting Hill
Carnival through the Carnival magazine every year. Alex Pascal founded the “Foundation of
European Carnival Cities” organisation and led the national “Caribbean Focus 86” festival.
But the police under future commissioner Paul Condon continued to attack the carnival. The
Metropolitan Police demanded a seat on the carnival organising committee along with the
Home Office and an 8pm shut down of carnival.

The CAC leadership refused.
1988 saw a vitriolic smear campaign in the press unleashed on the non-compliant CAC as well as a
massive police drug raid on the Mangrove Association on All Saints Road to arrest Frank
Critchlow a leading community activist. The CAC’s records and documents were taken away
by the police and the City accountants Coopers and Lybrand wrote a scathing report on the
CAC’s competence. Not a single charge was ever proved. But the damage had been done.
Claire Holder took over from the now disgraced CAC leadership and disbanded the
organisation and formed the Carnival Enterprise Committee CEC which was more pro
business and pro police. The 1989 carnival saw the emboldened police try to interfere with the 4
parade of the carnival bands. The carnival community responded strongly and formed the
APC Association for a Peoples Carnival to resist the plans of the CEC, the local councils
and police. The APC also had an educational remit and published a newsletter.

This was the period of “Orangina”, “Lilt” and then “Virgin Atlantic Notting Hill Carnival”
rebranding. But these short term sponsorships saw no financial gain for the carnival bands or
the development of the carnival itself. During this commercialisation period the income from
the stalls was transferred to Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and
Westminster Council. Even the Notting Hill Carnival magazine was franchised to the Evening
Standard newspaper the long time enemy of the Carnival. This was the period of
commercialisation and big business with no benefit to the carnival or its constituents the
carnival bands.

Blueprint for the future
The blueprint for the style of Carnival leadership established by Claire Holder continued from
then to the modern period. There have been many carnival organisers. I want to describe this
style of carnival leadership. Typically there would be:
a) Demands for new controls or regulations from the authorities to the carnival organisers
every year. There would be demands for earlier Carnival finishing times or sterile areas
or road closures or change of routes.
b) The authorities still view Notting Hill Carnival as a public order situation. This would
be backed up by changes in procedures or health and safety regulations or laws
engineered to apply to Notting Hill Carnival.
c) The carnival organisers would then secretly agree to these demands without going
back to consult the Carnival community or bands they are supposed to represent. The
carnival organisers have been relegated to a “rubber stamp” to legitimise the
oppressive plans of the authorities. The carnival organisers are no longer accountable
transparent or democratic.
d) It is then publicly announced by the authorities that there will be new arrangements at
Notting Hill Carnival this year.
The most precious commodity for Carnival bands at Notting Hill Carnival is a pass to allow the
bands and their vehicles to enter their own festival. There can be no spontaneous last minute
mas or music bands formed. Without a pass you are lost. Control and regulation is paramount
at Notting Hill carnival.

This continuing aggressive model of tightly controlling and keeping Notting Hill Carnival
underdeveloped continues. There is police swamping, a critical media looking for crime figures
and uncooperative obstructive local councils along with underfunding of the carnival bands.
This has shaped the Notting Hill Carnival we have today. This includes the effect on the art of
Carnival with repetitive “bikini mas” and more “fun bands” producing less creative mas
through pressures of commercialism and underfunding. After 50 years we must review; Where
we came from. Where we are going and what we must improve.

But yet Mahogany’s mas was used at the opening of UEFA European Football Championship
at Wembley in 1996. Notting Hill Carnival mas bands were part of the Millennium celebrations
and mas bands chipped down the Mall during the Queen's Jubilee . Notting Hill Carnival was
even held up as an example of London’s diversity during the bid for the Olympics in 2012. The
double standards of the British authorities towards Notting Hill Carnival is breathtaking. The
Caribbean Carnival in Britain is kept underdeveloped and repressed while the money
generated is absorbed greedily by London.

Carnival culture is a culture of resistance and survival
Yet mas bands, steel bands still parade the streets and 1 to 2 million people still turn up every
year for Notting Hill Carnival. The spirit of resistance is still flickering. The Notting Hill Carnival
has produced unique carnival mas, mas designers and mas makers like, Vernon “Fellows”
Wiliams, Clary Salandy, Rock Byron, Ashton Charles, Lincoln Rahamut, Michael “Speedy”
Ramdeen, Nikki Lyons, Larry Forde, Lawrence Noel, Carl Gabriel, Arthur Peters, Errol
Romilly, Leslee Wills to name a few. But the Caribbean Carnival we have struggled for over 50
years to establish may be unrecognisable in 10 years time.

Those of us who love Notting Hill Carnival and want it to survive must support a strategy for
getting a percentage of the millions of pounds made out of the carnival by shopkeepers, stall
holders fees, Transport For London the Hotels and many other sources. There must be an
economic strategy for a financially independent carnival. The Carnival needs money to
develop the festival, pay for permanent pan yards and mas camps, erecting temporary seated
viewing stands and hire vehicles for the road. One of the pressing issues is the disgrace of the
Panorama and the production of an event that respects pan and the pan lovers who loyally
turn up. We need a Panorama to be proud of. The creative elements of Notting Hill Carnival
are being starved of funds but we cannot be solely dependent on the funders. A financially
independent Notting Hill Carnival is a must.

We must build and support Caribbean Carnival institutions like the Carnival Village and Yaa
Centre. They must develop into an artistic, intellectual and educational resource for the
Notting Hill Carnival and the Caribbean Carnival in Britain.
We have to support and develop democratic accountable and effective organisations for mas,
steel bands, sounds and calypsonians/soca artistes in associations like British Association
of Steel bands (BAS), Association of British Calypsonians (ABC), Caribbean Music
Association the Soca Sounds (CMA) and the mas association Carnival Arts & Mas
Foundation (CAMF).

We must record our own history. Carnival bands have to record the story and history of their
arts organisations. Independent British film makers, our new griots, have to be encouraged
and supported like Optiks Hamilton who produced “Carnival Ah We Ting”, Nia Reynolds
“Looking for Claudia Jones” Stephen Rudder “ Sequins , Soca and Sweat; The hidden
heart of Notting Hill Carnival “ , Keith Morton “Panamundo” and Wyn Baptiste “The story
of Selwyn Baptiste”. We must also publicise and screen the iconic and culturally powerful
“King Carnival” by Horace Ove for new generations.

Education is crucial for the development of the Caribbean Carnival in Britain. We come from a
specific, deeply rich art and festival tradition. Conferences like this Bi-annual Steel Pan
conference are crucial. As Savannah View I organise an annual two day festival of film about
Carnival culture with the BFI and Carnival Village. I was also honoured to contribute to an
important book that came out this year about Notting Hill Carnival edited by Ishmael Blagrove
“Carnival; A photographic and testimonial history of the Notting Hill Carnival”.
Education and research must be our major tool.

The Notting Hill Carnival is an example of cultural resistance for over 50 years. In the panel
discussion at the BFI in August people clearly outlined the need for new struggles for financial
independence and for accountable and democratic carnival organisations that must work to
progress and develop the carnival, its art, its music and its future. Looming battles to resist the
pressures from gentrification are on the horizon. This will also require political mobilisation of
MPs and councillors, online petitions and campaigns to change the current arrangements we
find at Notting Hill Carnival. Without struggle there is no progress.

I want now to call the names of some of those who have passed but have contributed much to
establishing the Caribbean Carnival in Britain for over 50 years.

To inspire us I want to call on their names:
Claudia Jones., Kelso Cochrane, Rhaune Laslett, Andre Shervington, Edric and Pearl Connor,
Chris Le Maitre, Granville Pryce, Selwyn Baptiste, Ethnia Smith, Johnno Roberts, Vivian
Comma the “Golden Cockerel”, Frank Critchlow, Carlton “Zigilee” Constantine, Merle Major,
Philmore “Boots” Davidson, Biggs Yearwood, Randolph “Bull Bull” Baptiste, “Rock” Byron ,
Allan “Capitan” Thornhill,, David Roussel-Milner, Wayne Berkley, Tony Cumberbatch, Shadow
the mas man , Hugo Learmond, Vernon “Fellows” Williams, the calypsonian Peace & Love,
Larry Forde, Lawrence Noel, Geraldine Connor-Crawford and all those unnamed and
unknown who have made a contribution to Notting Hill carnival.

We stand on the shoulders of giants. 
We, must now stand up for we culture.
Thank you.

Author and researcher, Director of Savannah View, designer and band leader Peoples
War Carnival Band (1982 1998), vice chair CDC (1978-1980) founder APC (1989)
© Michael La Rose October 2014

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Stephen Lee Heung dies at 93

Days after the launch of a book commemorating his work, veteran masman Stephen Lee Heung, 93, died on Monday night from pneumonia at St Clair Medical Centre. 
The book, We Kind ah People, by American judge and Carnival researcher Ray Funk
and local photographer George Tang, was launched on October 7 at the National Library, Port-of-Spain. Yesterday Lee Heung’s son, Shane, said: “Dad died of a chest infection. Mucus had developed in his lungs and he was having problems breathing properly. 

“Dad suffered a stroke in 1997 but was mobile afterwards with the aid of crutches and a cane. “After a while he simply gave up and stopped going out. The last time he went out was to attend Dimanche Gras in 2012.” Peter Minshall designed Lee Heung’s 1976 Band of the Year winner, Paradise Lost, the first band Minshall had designed. 
Yesterday he said: “There are bandleaders and then there are bandleaders. The current crop is blatantly into making money on the work that they had learnt from the likes of Stephen Lee Heung, who never ever lost the love of making mas. We have lost one of the great producers of classic Caribbean art.” Five-time Band of the Year winner Edmond Hart, now 91, said: “I am taken aback by Stephen’s death. We were very friendly and were in the same Lions club. 
“When I first produced mas, Stephen played one year with me. He and his wife, Elsie, and my wife, Lil, and I were regarded as the couples of mas. We worked together abroad on a number of occasions,” he added. Hart’s son, Luis, now leader of Harts International, added: “Stephen and Elsie were responsible for giving many of the big designers their first break in mas. He did so much for T&T Carnival and was a true pioneer. 
“Many of the people who began by collaborating with Stephen ended up being some of the greatest contributors to mas in terms of visual excellence. My parents and the Lee Heungs were Carnival’s mas couples. “They were close as they were couples dealing in mas, closer than the others, like George Bailey and Harold Saldenha.” The late Wayne Berkeley also designed some of Lee Heung’s winning bands and his producer Earl Patterson said:
“Stephen was one of the best bandleaders of all time. The type of person he was... he had a welcoming heart to everyone. “The first time we were really close was when we travelled to Dallas, Texas, with Wayne Berkeley’s band. We sat for hours during the day, playing rummy and bonding. “On our return to Trinidad we continued playing rummy at Stephen’s home on Alberto Street. I remember that he loved a fried breadfruit very much. 
“I want to express my deepest condolences to Shane and the family.” D Midas Associates leader/designer Stephen Dereck said: “Another one from the glory days has passed. “Artistes like us cannot forget the creations he gave us. Stephen was one of the founders of the bandleaders’ association and he was also one of the first people to tour abroad with our mas, going to Montreal for Expo ‘67.”
Shane Lee Heung said funeral arrangements would be announced later this week, with the funeral tentatively scheduled for next week.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Addicted Mas: ZERO-FIVE- FIFTY ;Synopsis.

On Sunday 15th of June the Mas division of Specialist Entertainment ADDICTED launched their section for NHC 2014 ‘ZERO- FIVE FIFTY’, and have now released pictures and synopsis for their 2014 presentation.

Check it out.

As we approach the 5oth year of this landmark on the British cultural landscape called the Notting hill carnival, and 5 years of the Addicted section partaking in this socio/ cultural titan of a celebration with Cocoyea, Addicted celebrates the past and present through the metallic lens of the future, in ZERO FIVE FIFTY.
 ‘Five years of Addicted, Fifty years of Notting hill Carnival’

Zero Five Fifty the theme and Storyline is inspired by the Afrofuturism movement.

The year is 2114 AD and a group of time travellers in search of the perfect multicultural society travel back through time to experience first-hand what Notting Hill Carnival was like in its historic 50th year of existence.
The Afrotek time machine transports the group to the heart of the festival in the legendary ADDICTED MAS section whose energy and symbolic golden lotus costume epitomised all achievement and enlightenment, the utopian existence the travellers were in search of... 
The future starts now.

ZERO FIVE FIFTY: The Golden Lotus.
 Design and inspiration
Because the lotus flower grows in murky muddy water, surfaces to bloom during the day, only to return to the murky depths of mud at night, cultures across the globe have identified the lotus with many aspects of life.
 In ancient Egypt it was associated with the sun, beauty, resurrection, and rebirth. In Buddhism it is a symbol of purity in mind speech and body, in Hinduism, beauty and spiritual awakening. It is on this premise that the designer S.A Armstrong saw inspiration in not only the petals of the lotus flower but also its life cycle.

It was 50 years ago out of the dark racially explosive period of the late 1950’s the Trinidad and Tobago's carnival culture made its first appearance in London.  By 1965 Mrs Rhaune Laslett O’Brian (1919 2002) a community activist and Trinidadian musician Mr Russ Henderson MBE started a street parade that became known as the Notting Hill Carnival.

Like the lotus the carnival grew out of the impoverished streets of post WW2 West London and the social murk of racism and social ostracising to blossom like the lotus flower into London’s most popular social symbol of creativity, beauty and multiculturalism. 

The costumes are made up of three colours.

Gold the 50th anniversary is called the golden anniversary or golden jubilee and in recognition and of this milestone year the costumes main colour is gold.
Silver: the hints of silver in the costumes symbolise not only the 5 years of the Addicted presence in Notting hill but also the chrome of the steel pan the instrument that literally paved the way with music for Europe's biggest Caribbean carnival to take place.
Purple / violet is thought to be the highest chakra in the human body and symbolises creativity beauty and inspiration, the very building blocks of our carnival, it is also considered to be the colour of  royalty, nobility and power.

S.A. Armstrong
Addicted Designer.

Zero Five Fifty will be on the road with the band Cocoyea on bank holiday Monday August 25th 2014.
For more information contact: Melmia Innis , Juniour Innis, or Specialist Entertainment

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