Your only destination to all things CARNIVAL
By Vincent John, leader of DUKA Mas Domnik UK Carnival Band
The belated cancellation of Carnival by Notting Hill Carnival Limited was no surprise, particularly as many mas bands had no intention of parading on the streets due to Corona Virus.
One can only be sympathetic towards the bands that launched their costumes and expended resources in the expectation that Carnival 2020 would take place as usual. Similarly, the dilemma faced by the Carnival organisers who had to balance financial against public health concerns was enormous.
Had the Carnival been held on a business-as-usual basis, the anti-Carnival brigade would have been handed ammunition, with claims of disrespect, lack of empathy and ignoring obvious risks.
Covid-19 has shown us that the Carnival is a community-originated and led living cultural phenomenon, the significance, financial and social impact of which should never be under-estimated. As Carnival is embedded in our community, and because black and minority ethnic (BAME) citizens are most at risk of contamination and fatalities from Covid-19, it would have been irresponsible to have ignored the health factor.
The provisional decision of DUKA Mas Domnik UK Carnival Band in December 2019 to give Carnival 2020 a miss does, with hindsight, appear to be prescient; however, we did not anticipate that a pandemic would be the main driver. From the perspective of one who loves Carnival but must at the same time be realistic, the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have adverse repercussions for Carnival in the next few years, particularly if the vaccines and medicines needed to halt the spread of Covid-19 are not forthcoming soon.
These repercussions include:
The solutions to the problem outlined above and the new paradigm warrants close co-operation, rather than distant or unconnected silos of operations at mas band, arena and carnival organiser levels. It would not be seen as draconian or restrictive if funders, the authorities, partners and even service providers were to decide on a series of event preconditions. These could include collaboration, joined-up working of and between mas bands, membership of the arenas, structural connectivity between the five representative arenas, visible liaison and genuine consultation by the carnival organiser with the arenas and an overarching principle of respect for the cultural artistic components of Europe’s largest street carnival.
Not only will bands have a better chance of survival and ability or capacity to participate, but the iconic event will thrive, albeit in a milieu that requires a new approach where pragmatism, health and safety, community demands and conservation are assigned a much higher priority.