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Notting Hill Carnival has lost another of its iconic mas bands. Carnival 2020 will be the poorer for lacking the beauty of Beeraahaar Sweet Combination.
Band leader Christina Oree broke the sad news in a press release stating that she had resigned as the chair of the charity. The board unanimously agreed to wind up the organisation.
The band was founded 40 years ago as a soca dance group. It became known for a distinctive style of mas that proved very popular with the crowds at Notting Hill and other carnivals. Beeraahaar’s children’s section was always especially appealing.
In her statement, Christina said that Beeraahaar had “committed decades of service offering workshops, classes, work experience and personal development to families and individuals of all ages, genders, sexual orientation, physical and cognitive impairments and culturally diverse backgrounds.”
The decision to bring the curtain down on Beeraahaar’s masquerading and charitable work was driven by cuts in funding and also by the trustees’ advancing age (Christina is in her early 80s). Sadly, said Christina, “there are no available members to maintain the organisation”.
Beeraahaar is certainly not the first band to have succumbed to these pressures and is unlikely to be the last. Soca News is aware of several bands that are on the edge of withdrawing for a range of reasons. Many are struggling to make ends meet in light of the funding squeeze caused by reduced grant aid for carnival arts. To this must be added the high cost of creating ‘real’ mas, lack of affordable and appropriate space for mas camps, loss of members to commercial party bands, the increasing age of the original band leaders and a lack of ‘succession’ to take over from them, the administrative burden of complying with ever more stringent rules on health, safety and safeguarding, rising insurance costs, and difficulties with policing and security-related restrictions.
With so many challenges to face, it is scarcely surprising that many younger carnivalists – Carnival’s potential leaders of the future – are wary about getting involved.
While regretting the passing of another band, Soca News thanks Christina and all at Beeraahaar for the pleasure they have given us over the years. We wish them well for the future.