Saturday 5th August 2017
Wow. I cannot believe the anticipation for a carnival that I have for Leicester. I am not sure why, but I reckon it will be a good carnival. We are all booked to go on the coach with Candy Mas, Carnival Crusherz departing from West London. Flyer says coach departing at 7am, but we know coach ain’t going until 8am.
Leicester Carnival Organisation
So before we embark upon the news about the trip, let me tell you a bit of background to Leicester carnival. It is actually a limited company and is organised from a carnival arts/creation centre in North Evington in Leicester, chaired by Dennis Sugar Christopher. Since 2011, EMCCAN (East Midlands Carnival Arts Network) has been supporting the region’s Caribbean carnivals in Derby, Leicester, Nottingham and Northampton. It is a community interest company that works to support each carnival and local communities, as well as developing the carnival’s delivery and artistic production (emccan.org, n.d)
The Road Trip
Remember, we had no knowledge of what this trip would be like and I was initially told that we would be following a band and that we would be equipped with red t-shirts – we were going on the road as Red Army. However, I later got a message to say, “wear your mas costume of choice, we going on the road”. Great, I thought as I have an array of costumes and decided on my ExMyF costume from Paris carnival. Stuff packed, I left and got to the meeting point at around 8am. Upon arrival, we saw that we were going on a mini bus and collected an array of people en route. I have to say, it was the best coach trip I have been on in a long time. To explain, Candy Mas treat you like family and there is a wicked family vibe. With just 12 of us we created one memorable trip to Leicester. The mummy of the trip, Monzo came packed with food, snacks, cakes, drinks and lunch. Shak treated us to a McDonald’s breakfast (alright I know McD’s but hey the intent was beautiful). Next he made sure we all had our drinks of choice and having loaded up with food, drinks with toilet breaks sorted – we were off. What ensued was 3 hours of pure jokes, dancing, singing, the mini bus even rocking to the tunes. Somehow, the team managed to hook some big ass speaker at the back with us and oh lord we had Soca, Afrobeats, House & Reggae vibes pumping all the way.
At around 12.30pm we arrived in Leicester and parked up in Victoria Park. As the carnival actually sets off and ends in Victoria Park, Leicester and we had plenty of space to park up and get ready for the road. Changing in a car, coach and now mini bus is nothing new to me, as there are never any changing rooms to get ready, so you just learn to improvise with what you have and not have issues changing in front of people. Once we were ready, I was pleasantly surprised to see the team stringing up a float to go on the road – there were only 12 of us! But yes, they had a float on the road and 12 of us ready to take on Leicester. As the music started, so did the rain. Luckily, I packed my poncho and it was a life saver, for it saved me in the downpours and yes it rained hard.
On de Road
At around 1.30pm we set off and chipped out of the park onto the road and despite the rain, we were greeted by people aligning the streets cheering us on. I am thinking “why are they standing out in the rain?” I laughed as ironically they must be thinking, “why is she is dancing half-naked in the rain”.
I cannot explain the experience on the road apart from the fact that because it was so small, there were no real constraints, no huge police presence and a real community spirit. People came out to support! The trucks also flowed through smoothly, albeit quite quickly at times. We did spend a few times upping our pace to keep up with the truck but apart from that and the rain, the day was perfect. By no means is it Nottinghill, or Huddersfield but its a real good contender for a carnival that you need to go to. You can wuk up on the road and we were arguably the craziest band on the road. We repped for London for sure and nuff people came to jump with us! The truck and music supplied by Candy Mas was equally on point playing old and new tunes and keeping us always entertained. Something fabulous happened not too long after we set off. A local band by the name of O.S.P joined us, some 50 strong! I am not sure of all the details, but the little conversation I had, mentioned that they were looking for a band to follow and ours looked the most vybz so they asked to join us on the road. They were literally waiting on the roadside. So we, our 12 strong crew, upped to over 60 strong on the road. The O.S.P team were made up of children and teenagers from as young as 5 to 14, all dressed in very cute costumes. They had a crew of support so we didn’t even have to look after them on the road, they came as our ready-made carnivalists! They knew all the tunes, jumped with us and when Palance came up we did mash-up little Leicester! We were delighted by the presence also of Lady in Red (as I shall affectionately call her). Lady in Red, is a party animal, came on the road in her red half top and shorts, she looked gorgeous – a soldier. No jacket, no poncho, just rum and her phone. The two bachannalist essentials. She wuked up like she was in Barbados for crop over. Bam Bim came on and it was game over.
Other bands were spectacular on the road and featured some gorgeous lead designs and equally beautiful costumes. The stewards had little to do as there was no aggressive behaviours or pushing from crowds and only very few barriers to separate the procession from the crowds. No moody police – they loved it! You were in effect free to dance with everyone all way through the route. All I can say is that everyone came on the road to have fun and embrace the crowds. The spirit in Leicester is beautiful.
Carnival ends but the feting continues!
Carnival ended at around 4.30pm when we got back into Victoria Park. However, did it end there? No way. A marquee had been set up in the park with a music stage, food and drinks stalls. People were chilling in the park, lying on the wet grass like it was a fine summers day. Our float played music for the next half hour whilst we all changed out of costumes. In the meantime, Monzo had gotten out her goodie and was dishing out home cooked stew chicken and rice. We run out of plates, so went old skool and used lids, anything to get served. Shak from Candy Mas complimented the effort by bringing a microwave and running it off the generator from the truck. As long as that truck was running we got hot food 🙂 Tipped off with home-made Coeslaw, we chilled back happy and discussing the day. The day was by far not over for some, as Lady in Red, as I shall politely call her rocked back up, with “rum in up her system” and up and still ready to party. The fact that we were all still lively and had music hooked up, ensured that she stayed with us until we had to leave. Lady in red was a delight to have around for she was the epitome of drunken fun behaviour. To save her dignity I will not go into it all but look forward to seeing her next year.
Next up was a Trinidadian guy in Leicester, with a striking ‘Red Mohican’ with his girlfriend. He was drunk and arguing (over nothing I hasten to add) with one of the team. His girlfriend looked relatively sober but kept talking to me in only what I can describe as a mix of fake Trini/Jamaican accent all mixed in with a bit of south london. You know those really “I am trying to hard to be with it” accents. Bless her though as she had to deal with drunk ‘Red Mohican’ storming up the down road cussing for no good damn reason. Flinging off his t-shirt and her picking it up and giving him another. We belly laughed all the way home about that one..
The truck finally shut down from the music at 6.30pm and so we set up the speaker on grass and we jammed right there in Victoria Park, eating good food amongst whom I have grown to regard as friends.
We only stopped and packed up our gear at 8pm as we were tired and it was a long journey home. Sated, wuked out and weary we boarded our little mini bus home. Not a peep from me, I head rolled all the back to West London.
The spirit in Leicester is beautiful, for sure Leicester is on the agenda for the 2018 Carnival. Part of the Real Soca Deal’s Carnival roadtrip for 2018! All I can say is watch this space and follow me Candy Mas & Carnival Crusherz for the 2018 Leicester road trip.
Candy Mas in conjunction with Carnival Crusherz are also doing a coach trip to Manchester on 12th August. See all details on their facebook page for all their events on https://www.facebook.com/itsallaboutcandy2/
Other regional carnival dates supported by EMMCCAN for this year are:
- Northampton Saturday 10th June 2017 (missed it)!
- Derby Sunday 16th July 2017 (missed it)!
- Nottingham 20th August – a possiblity!