By Stephen Weir
The list of world carnival cities grew by one on the weekend.
Sheffield, a British city of close to 1.6 million people staged its first carnival in over 20 years and English media outlets are reporting it was a success.
“This was the first Carnival event held here since the early 1990’s,” Andrea Risden, a Sheffield Carnival spokesperson told the Caribbean Camera.
She said the organizers of the event were aware of the Toronto Caribbean Carnival and other North American festivals but decided “not to focus on any overseas carnivals at present. This was an event representative of carnivals around England and unique to Sheffield, ” Risden said.
“We had approximately 150 people playing in our mas’.
“There were three bands in total – Sheffield (split into several sections) -Mahogany and a small band from the Leeds West Indian carnival.”
Risden noted that not everyone had to wear a costume to take part. Some came prepared with their own creations. ”
Because there hasn’t been a carnival this century, organizers of the weekend parade held workshops before the fete to teach people how to make costumes, she said.
One local camp workshop was able to create highly colourful ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ costumes that immediately caught the attention of photographers and TV crews, she added.
The parade of the bands followed a 3-km long route. However, the Sheffield revellers danced on a pathway alongside the perimeter of a downtown park and were not on the road.
The parade was opened by the Lord Mayor of the City, a politician known as Magic Magid. The Lord Mayor , a Somalia refugee (now a British citizen), donned a three-metre tall red and white costume that resembled a hang glider. He led the “paraders ” through the park and then stayed on site to pose for pictures with many of the 20,000 spectators.
“While not everyone wore Caribbean style costumes (people were encouraged to don their national costumes if they didn’t want to go’ full mas’), the enthusiasm for the event, coupled with strong local sponsorship and a successful online fundraising, guarantees that Carnival has come back to Sheffield, ” said one of the organizers.
And what is on the books for the next fete? Organizers want to win back the right to play mas’ on the street. “The road is something we aspire to in the years to come!” said Risden.