The 2018 UK carnival season began in style, with Luton International Carnival celebrating its 42nd year on 27 May. Commissioned by Luton Borough Council in partnership with UK Centre for Carnival Arts (UKCCA) and Luton Culture, this has become a significant event in the town’s cultural calendar.
Luton International Carnival is now an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) for 2018 to 2022, and this is the first year of that funding. Artistic Director Clary Salandy has been making her mark on the event since 2014, and in addition the work of her mas band, Mahogany International, was on display. The event’s international focus was portrayed by local community troupes representing carnival arts from the Caribbean, Latin America, South Asia and Poland, with two steelbands mixing in with local radio and sound systems. The parade took a new circular route this year around Wigmore Park, which was busy with traders, a funfair and stalls.
Local schools took part this year, alongside Luton Town Football Club, Luton Tigers, Bedfordshire Police and the Fire Brigade. Local Samaritans and sickle cell anaemia charities produced fantastic floats, with the support of UKCCA, and Luton’s own Rampage Mas made a welcome appearance with their artistic talent on show.
Visiting carnival bands supporting the parade included Hughbon Condor’s band from Leeds, which won Devil King, and the East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network’s ‘Flight of Fancy’ touring work. The latter was one of the five Arts Council England NPO mas bands playing at Luton Carnival, the others being Paraiso and Mahogany from London, City Arts, also from the Midlands, and New Carnival Company from the Isle of Wight.
Certainly one of the highlights was the inclusion of disabled people in the parade. The New Carnival Company had collaborated with Embaixadores da Alegria from Rio, the largest inclusive and disability led carnival group in the world, to form Alegria Samba School. They produced a band of butterflies and insects played by a combination of disabled and non-disabled masqueraders.
It’s a pleasure to visit such a vibrant and diverse event, and there’s no doubt that Luton Carnival continues to go from strength to strength.