The Trans-Form Carnival!

My favourite bit of any carnival is lining up. It is always so exciting to suddenly see everything falling into place, even if everyone is rushing around like mad, giving death stares if someone borrows their scissors, and squabbling over who gets the last big cable tie (or is that just me??).

So the big day had finally arrived, and what an amazing day it was. The set up was everything a classic carnival day should be – not quite enough time to finish everything off before all the participants arrive but a joy to see them when they do; big problems suddenly resolving themselves in simple ways; and the atmosphere highly charged with excitement and anticipation, especially when the PA sound-check starts – the noise bringing the final element to transport everyone into their carnival bubble.

Everything loaded up ready to go!

It is also the moment when you can see properly what everyone has been making with their groups. With 18 artists working like mad across the city there were lots of surprises to be revealed. The artists had bonded over the project through living and working together, so everyone had a sense of what was being made, but it was only when it was revealed that the full glory of what had been created with everyone was properly understood. The giant peacock made by children and young people in the disabled school shone beautifully, as did the young people themselves as they operated it. The children from the Maya Schools arrived as one group of nearly 100, and their delicate newspaper costumes suddenly came together and made them into a proper Troupe, with real visual coherence. The dog puppet took on a life of its own, prowling around the site as young people had their first proper practice. The troublesome monkey was resplendent on top of the PA System, glaring out at everyone, and the horse stood proud over all proceedings.

Peacock Puppet made by young people at the Disabled School, working. with Jo-Jo Vagabondi – photo Emma Garofalo
The Maya School with newspaper costumes and windmills – photo Emma Garofalo
Giant Street Dog leads the way – photo (and dog) by Emma Garofalo
Monkey rides high on the PA Truck – Photo Emma Garofalo (Monkey by Caroline Jones)
The horse leads the way – photo Emma Garofalo (horse by Jess Rost)

So much amazing work had been created, and you could see how strong the connections were between the artists and the groups they had been working with. As each group arrived and their lead artist met them and showed how they were going to be involved in the parade, you could see the trust and affection that had developed between them, and how excited everyone was on both sides.

It was also a beautiful day, not once had there been any sort of discussion about wet weather plans. Our set off time of 4pm meant we were out of the heat of the day, and the guarantee of blue skies is something us British Carnivalists are not used to! There were the usual niggles on route, the security guards were a bit heavy handed (of course), a few puppets drooped as they travelled (birds – mea culpa!), and the kids, of course, got sick of carrying stuff and just wanted to dance and play all the way round – and who can begrudge them that!

Birds lined up and ready to go

Our final destination was a small amphi-theatre, where everyone got five minutes on stage for a final show and share. It was here that we got the first sense of the mix of castes of the children, with the Maya Children much more reserved in this flamboyant environment. One of the key aims of the project was for it to be unsegregated, which it achieved well. However, the Maya Children did seem to hold back more that the others – whether through their age (they were the youngest in the parade), their energy levels, or if it was that they are less used to being the centre of attention in that sort of space. It is hard to second guess the life experiences of a child who is educated at the foot of a construction site, there may have been a lot of new experiences happening that day. Either way, I hope it was enriching.

Some of the Maya children performing on sage – photo Emma Garofalo

Everyone left with a jam sandwich and a mango lassi curtesy of our amazing landlady/adopted mum, Raksha. She looked after everyone throughout the project, and topped it off with feeding 800 children! Puppets and carnival props were gathered up and driven to their new home in one of the schools, and our band of intrepid creatives dragged their weary selves home.

It is often the way that the people who do most of the work see the least of an event, as they are too busy making it happen to spectate. I think this was the case for our artistic director, Manu, and her production manager Claire. However, rest assured, M & C, it was glorious. You can be so proud of what you set in motion, and we can all be proud of what we achieved with your support. A great Indian Carnival.

The Trans-Form Carnival stretches right around the lake.