What is Carnival? - Carnival Archive Project

Creating a Carnival
• The following presentation aims to facilitate
your school’s planning, to embed carnival in
the curriculum and support you to create your
own carnival band.
This presentation includes the following:
• An introduction to the history of carnival
• The carnival archive web address for further
resources and research
• The place of carnival in education
• Archive resources of an example carnival band
created by artists from arts company Festive
Road as a guide for your own planning
What is Carnival?
Carnival in pre-Christian Times
• It is known that holidays were celebrated in
the pre-Christian times and had many things
in common with present day carnivals
• In Ancient Greece a festival was held in
honour of Dionysus. It was a large religious
festival and included dancing, singing, poetry
as well as masked procession
• In Ancient Rome it was heathen holidays named the
Saturnalia and held in honour of the God of Saturn,
god of grain vegetation and wine. The general idea of
the feast was to invert the ordinary way of life.
• During two weeks all class boundaries were erased by
the law of festival: the rich and poor were equalized in
rights, children headed families, slaves could sit freely
with theirs masters at the table and everybody hid
their faces behind masks to avoid embarrassment once
the celebrations were over. Also, a pseudo-king was
chosen at the start of the holiday and at the end of
Saturnalias he was killed through burning, hanging etc.
Carnival in the UK is believed to have existed for
thousands of years in the form of parades and
outdoor celebrations based around key events in
the calendar
- Pagan events
- Fairs
- Weddings
Catholicism and Carnival
Prior to the period of Lent when Christians go
through prayer, repentance and self-denial in
honour of the time Jesus fasted when in the
wilderness, people would try and use up their
luxury goods such as meat and dairy products.
The term carnival comes from the Italian word
carne (meat) levare (remove) and came to
symbolise a time of eating and drinking before
the fasting of Lent began.
• As a result Catholic countries, or those countries
once controlled by Catholic nations such as
Trinidad and Tobago tend to have the strongest
carnival traditions
• During these celebrations, which often took place
on the streets, people began to wear masks to
allow them to party incognito and meant they
didn’t have to worry about their reputations
Carnival in the UK
• Carnival in the UK declined with the
reformation in the 16th century. The
reformation saw England split from the
Catholic Church and the creation of the
Protestant Church of England
• Carnivals and parades were used during the
First and Second World War as a way of raising
funds and morale
• After the end of the Second World War, the British
government encouraged mass immigration from the British
Empire without needing a visa, to help the population
recover after the huge loss of life during the war.
• The immigrants who came to Britain brought with them
their customs and traditions and amongst those were
carnival traditions. This influx on new carnival ideas helped
to revive UK carnival and it now plays host to the world’s
second largest carnival (Notting Hill) and the two largest
carnivals in Europe (Notting Hill and Luton International
Some of the largest influences on carnival in the UK today
come from African, Caribbean, Indian and Irish communities.
African influences on carnival
• Ancient African traditions of parading and moving
in circles through villages in costumes and masks
• Circling villages was believed to bring good
fortune, heal problems and appease the
• The combination of natural objects often found in
carnival tradition is borrowed from the African
customs of creating a piece of sculpture or mask
with each object representing a certain idea or
spiritual force
• Feathers were used frequently by Africans in
their motherland on masks and headdresses as a
symbol of our ability as humans to rise above
problems, pains, heartbreaks, illness to travel to
another world and be reborn spiritually
• African dance and music traditions transformed
the early carnival celebrations in the Americas as
African drum rhythms, large puppets, stick
fighters and stilt dancers began to make their
appearances in carnival festivities
In many parts of the world where
Catholic Europeans set up colonies
and entered into the slave trade,
carnival took root
• Brazil is famous for it’s carnival
• Mardi Gras in Louisiana where African
Americans mixed with French settlers and
Native Americans
• Caribbean countries including: Barbados,
Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Cuba, St
Thomas, St Marten
• Central and South America: Belize, Panama,
• Canada and the USA: Brooklyn, Miami,
Toronto, San Francisco
Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago
• Carnival was introduced to Trinidad around
1785 with the arrival of the French settlers
• Banned from the masked balls of the French
the slaves would hold their own carnivals
using their own rituals and folklore and
mocking their master’s behaviour
• After 1838 when slavery was abolished the
freed Africans began to hold their own
carnival celebrations in the streets
• Today carnival in Trinidad reflects the faces of
the many immigrants who have come to the
island from Europe, Africa, India and China
• Many schools in Trinidad believe that
sponsoring a carnival band is a way to teach
young people about their roots and culture
Music of Trinidad Carnival
• Steel Pan
Africans who were brought as slaves to Trinidad
had their own musical culture of drumming. In
1883 drumming was outlawed by the authorities
afraid that it would spark a rebellion. The slaves
made music with whatever came to hand. In
1936 steel pan was invented when it was
discovered different tones could be created
using oil drums.
• Calypso
Forbidden to talk to each other and robbed of
their home the slaves on the sugar plantations
in Trinidad began to sing songs. They used
Calypso which can be traced back to West
African Kaiso as a means of communication and
to mock the slave masters
• Samba
Samba is one of the best known forms of AfroBrazilian music which developed through a
blending of cultures as a result of the
Portuguese colonisation of Brazil. A samba
school carnival entry will typically include
singers (puxadires) and musicians including a
drumming section called the batteria
Influence of Caribean Music in the UK
• The arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean
on the SS Windrush in the 1940s and 50s
brought new influences to popular music in
the UK
• Calypso has spawned many modern variants
including Soca (a fusion of Soul and Calypso),
Rapso ( slower rap and hip-hop rhythms) and
Chutney (fusion of Soca and Indian influences
Carnival in Education
Ofsted Report Learning: creative
approaches that raise standards
Ofsted concluded:
Creative approaches had a "perceptible and positive impact on pupils
personal development and on their preparation for life beyond
"We are pleased that the report recognises what we see in schools
every day: that creative approaches to learning raise attainment levels,
improve attendance and increase pupil motivation particularly for
schools in challenging circumstances. "
Paul Collard, Chief Executive of Creativity, Culture and Education (CCE), the organisation which manages
Creative Partnerships
Carnival as Inclusive Education: exploring
carnival arts in the curriculum
by Celia Burgess-Macey
“Carnival in schools provides an opportunity for the
focussed study of a particularly important cultural
event, which has diverse historical and international
origins and is in a constant process of development
incorporating new elements and linking different
Children’s responses
“Craig was a very quiet boy. The kind who has dreams.
He struggled for a while. He always wanted help to do
things[…] in the end he was so involved that event
when he left that primary school he came back for two
years after to help with the carnival”
Mas Maker Amaru Chatawa
Parental engagement
“… through the school becoming the focus of carnival
work and through parents seeing black adults working
alongside their children, many parents black parents
have been willing for the first time to become further
Celebrating the heritage of carnival
The Carnival Archive project is gathering
together an archive about the rich history of
Carnival and street celebrations in the eastern
region of the UK. We aim to fashion our archive
into local, regional and national stories for
everyone to enjoy.
• Celebrating the heritage of carnival in the
eastern region of the UK
• Sharing photos, videos, memories and stories
of carnivals
• Collecting now in Luton, Northampton,
Norwich and Southend
You can explore the images and stories in the
carnival archive online
Luton Carnival Timeline
Processions have always been a feature of celebrations in Luton
Guild Feasts began in Luton and these would include a procession
Golden Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria
Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Victoria
Procession to celebrate the opening of the Plait Halls
Peace Day Riots: National day of celebrations that descended into rioting
Silver Jubilee of George V
1939 - 1945 Carnival parades held to raise money for the war effort
The heyday of the street party was VE day which marked the end of war in Europe
St George’s day parades were popular
Possibly the first Easter Bonnet Parade
The first Luton Carnival as we now know it
Luton Carnival acquired International Status
Carnival cancelled due to heavy rain and flooding
Opening of UKCCA
The Carnival was moved from May to July to coincide with the arrival of the Olympic torch
in Luton
Designing for Carnival: Archive
inspiration for planning
Choosing a theme
It is helpful to imagine your carnival band as a visual
Your carnival theme provides you with the title of your
story. This could be literal e.g. an existing story like
Snow White or more broad like the Life Cycle, the
history of Luton etc.
If you are planning a cross curricular carnival project
your theme acts very much like a topic and all your
other subjects are taught through it. It is important to
choose a theme which is rich enough to meet the
needs of each curriculum area.
This image shows Festive Road’s design
for one of their carnival bands. Their
theme was ‘Celebration’.
Kings and Queens
If the theme is the title of your story
the Kings and Queens are the central
characters. They are often puppets or
large back pack costumes that make
a big impression and open the
carnival procession with a bang.
The Kings and Queens in Festive Road’s band
were inspired by Vivian Westwood and Jack
Sparrow, both theatrical and flamboyant
characters. Their broad approach to design
connects with and inspires their carnival
The sections of your carnival band (i.e. the different
groups within your overall group) are like the chapters in
your story.
Each one illuminates a different part of the story for your
audience. For example if your theme was the Olympics
you might have a section for the opening ceremony, or
different sections for different sports.
If organising a whole school carnival it is useful for each
year group to have their own section and they design
and make costumes specifically for that.
Party goers
Star Drummers
As well as your main characters i.e.
your King or Queen you may also
want to have other characters from
your story, perhaps one with each
section. They may have larger
costumes than the others and lead
their section.
The Event
Whether you are planning an in school carnival or taking
part in your local carnival the event is great day for all
If you are planning to take part in your local carnival it is
important to put in your application to the council in good
The event itself is a fantastic motivator for staff, children
and parents a like and is a fantastic celebration. Everyone
comes away with a great sense of pride and achievement.
As well as being an excellent tool for framing academic
learning in an exciting context carnival also develops selfconfidence and a sense of community.
Thank you

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