Elimu Mas Band has been upholding ‘traditional carnival values’ in Notting Hill Carnival for many years, and its impressive costumes have provided welcome relief from the standard feathered fare and jouvert-style mud of the party bands. However, the band announced on 23 January that it would not be on the road this August Bank Holiday, nor will it be participating in carnivals in Hackney, Kingston, Glastonbury, Shanghai or elsewhere.
The decision, which will disappoint many of the band’s supporters, followed “… a challenging and stressful participation in Notting Hill Carnival 2023 that impacted on key members, threatened the safety and wellbeing of others and compromised the Academy’s development goals”.
Band leader Ansel Wong told Soca News:
“Elimu faced several challenges on the road at Notting Hill last year. Ladbroke Grove is a key one, largely due to the crowd density and bands’ exit points from the route. It was very difficult to get people through.
We normally exit on to Harrow Road, but for the past few years the police have insisted that everyone has to come off the lorry and walk down Harrow Road to Woodfield Road [Elimu’s mas camp]. The alternative is to go down Kensal Road at a time when it’s getting very crowded, which adds another two to three hours to the day.“
Ansel himself was taken ill at the judging point and has been persuaded by concerned family members that it’s time to let others take on more of the management of the band. He is now actively pursuing a succession strategy for Elimu, to bring on the next generation of leaders so that the running of the band can be handed on to younger people. “I have a number of mentees – about 17 individuals – but they are a bit reluctant to take over,” Ansel admitted.
He added: “One of the things that Claire Holder did very well was to professionalise the governance of the event.” This, Ansel pointed out, is especially important now because of the impact of regulations and the high cost of personal indemnity insurance.
The succession strategy is one that all bands should be following, Ansel believes. And the good news is that Elimu will not be hibernating for the next 12 months. “We are continuing to work with the [Elimu Mas] Academy. There are 15 Arts Council-supported bursaries for up-and-coming artists, as well as exhibitions, shows, workshops with schools and partnering.