The diamond-shaped, curiously old-fashioned, undeniably pretty Isle of Wight has always been a place apart, attracting artists, craftspeople, writers and photographers as well as hordes of trippers and tourists. Today, in addition to rock, cream teas and dinosaurs, the island is famous for its carnivals.
On 8 July, the town of Ryde hosts the Isle of Wight Mardi Gras, which kicks off National Children’s Carnival Week (8-16 July). This year the event is themed ‘Coast to Coast’ in celebration of world’s longest waymarked footpath, which encircles mainland Britain – and the Isle of Wight.
With music provided by Raw Samba and Fat Samba, the carnivalists will set off from Simeon Recreation Ground at 3pm. They’ll pass along The Strand and Melville Street, head down Union Street and return east along the Esplanade, passing the hovercraft terminal, marina and beach, before returning to the recreation ground.
More than 20 groups will be taking part, including 17 schools. Costumes to look out for include ‘Spirit of Montserrat’, designed by Donna Fox with Arts Council support. The hand-painted design incorporates 30 metres of hand-woven silk and shows the Montserrat volcano and Ireland. Sustainability is key to fashion student Joel Lines’ costumes, which were designed for his degree show. He uses traditional materials and techniques such as willow, rattan and papier mâché, plus recycled plastics and even bed sheets. ‘The Spirit of the Isle’ is a major work from established designer Melissa Simon-Hartman, whose costumes can be seen in theatre, film and TV productions, as well as Notting Hill Carnival.
Isle of Wight Mardi Gras is organised by the New Carnival Company in conjunction with the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, St Pauls Carnival, Nottingham, 18 hours Hastings, EMCCAN and Global Grooves.
If you’re intending to visit the island, check travel times and availability carefully, as strikes may affect rail services and Ryde Pier, which ferry passengers use to reach the town, is under repair.
For more information about the Mardi Gras, email email@example.com or call 01983 716095.