Luton International Carnival – “Mas’ive” 40!

By Angela Chappell
Photographer Angela Chappell

United Kingdom | Tuesday 14 June 2016: 8:08 BST

The 2016 UK carnival season began in style, with Luton International Carnival celebrating its 40th anniversary on May 29 - the Bank Holiday weekend. Commissioned by Luton Borough Council in partnership with UK Centre for Carnival Arts and Luton Culture, it’s a huge event in the town’s cultural calendar, with crowds of 150 - 200,000 expected. 37 groups with a total of 947 masqueraders took to the streets, and the event lived up to its international reputation with communities representing the Caribbean, Latin America, Bolivia, Ireland, Poland and Ghana giving an eclectic mix of sounds, style and rhythms.

Luton has always had great involvement from local schools, and seven took part this year alongside Luton Town Football Club, St Alban’s Cathedral and Bedfordshire Police. Local charities The Samaritans and Sickle Cell Anaemia have been producing fantastic Queen Costumes in recent years; with the support of UKCCA their confidence has rocketed, and they produced their ‘Fireworks’ rendition. The home grown talents of Rampage Mas never disappoint; they have a reputation as the most successful UK touring mas band, and their sumptuous Arabian theme and horse embellished truck demonstrates the carnival arts talent in the town. Caribbean carnival costumes dominate the parade, alongside soca sound systems. It was a pleasure to hear pan on the road with Revellers Steel Band, in between the Samba Batteria, Polish marching bands and Irish pipes.

The parade took a new circular route this year around the Wigmore Park area, bypassing the city centre but keeping the park busy for traders, funfair and stalls. Visiting carnival bands from Nottingham, Preston, Leeds, Leicester and London supported the parade, with huge Indian Chiefs, Kings and Queens, tiger fish, flowers and Power Rangers.

UKCCA Artistic Director Clary Salandy has been working in Luton since 2014, and her exciting designs are interspersed throughout the parade - from billowing flowers and galloping horses to crazy spinning teapots. Great efforts were made this year to adorn trucks with dazzling flamingos, with galloping horses – even creating Luton’s own ‘Windrush’ ship. Stealing the show for me just had to be Hillsborough Junior School and Bedfordshire Police, with the best use of Her Majesty’s officers in a UK carnival: seeing four highly polished boots under a giant constable helmet playing mas and trying to keep their young troupe of revellers in line was truly a sight to behold.

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