Judges at Notting Hill Carnival were greeted by protests from several big ‘dutty mas’ bands on Carnival Sunday.
Paint, powder, mud and chocolate have proved hugely popular with revellers over the past decade, but many in the London mas community are angry that these adult bands now dominate what has traditionally been Children’s Day. In an attempt to return Sunday to children’s mas, carnival organiser LNHCET has declared that next year these bands will not be allowed on the road until Monday.
Pure Lime made their anger known by turning off the music at the judging point, telling their revellers “There’ll be no chocolate next year we are not wanted here.” Its banner read “Dutty mas – the las lap”.
Bacchanalia and Wotless also left the judges in doubt about their feelings chanting “Don’t take de dutty mas”, raising their fingers and then charging headlong down Great Western Road in an explosion of paint.
Over the past decade, children’s mas has become noticeably poorer in both quantity and quality at Notting Hill. In many bands, children are only a token presence – perhaps six young masqueraders in some indifferent outfits followed by hundreds of adults in T-shirts.
Economic realities have played a large part in this change: paint and powder packages are huge money-spinners, with some bands attracting up to 2,000 revellers yet require little outlay except for music, security, drinks, T-shirts and paint or chocolate. Children’s bands require more organisation, a big commitment from volunteers (eg to make costumes) and greater expenditure on materials. As they cannot charge commercial rates for their costumes, the bands are dependent on increasingly scarce arts grants and sponsorship.
The desire to restore mas to Children’s Day may not be the whole story, however. Soca News has heard that the police were concerned about the amount of paint being thrown last year. Bystanders, residents and police officers themselves reportedly complained about damage to clothing and property. As the Met tightens its grip on Carnival, the dutty mas revels are apparently seen as contributing to a public order problem.
Those who need their annual fix of colour and mess can still enjoy powder mayhem at J’ouvert – although they will need to get up much earlier for it, as it runs from 6am to 9am on Carnival Sunday. And, as SN reports elsewhere, the future of this very special part of Notting Hill Carnival is now in doubt given the lack of music at Jouvert this year.