They didn’t take part last year due to a contractual dispute with the organisers, but now they’re ready to storm into Rotterdam Zomer Carnaval like never before.

Windward Islands mas band Small Island Unity expects to have between 200 and 250 masqueraders portraying ‘Hurricane Season’ on 28 July. After the devastation of last year’s hurricanes, the topic might seem a tad insensitive, but they reckon the best way to deal with trauma is to confront it head-on in mas and music. And what’s the point of Carnival if it can’t be controversial?

The main sections are Hurricane Categories 1 to 5, plus children and a fun mas T-shirt section called ‑ even more provocatively ‑ ‘Looters’. For those whose pockets can’t stretch to purchase of a full costume, the band has introduced a rental option, which they reckon will be popular with students.

At least eight performers from St Maarten will be providing music on the truck. Topping the bill will be 2018 St Maarten Road March victor King James. Other St Maarten artistes booked for Rotterdam include Da Lion (‘Le Go Di Goat’), King Rumer, King Kembe and the Odd Brothers, while representing Barbados will be 2017 Soca Monarch Terrah Dan.

After Rotterdam the storm will sweep across the Channel to lay waste to west London. The Small Island Unity contingent numbered 80 in 2017 but the band hopes to double that number on 26 and 27 August in Notting Hill. It’s also working to redress the imbalance between female and male masqueraders by insisting that ‘Real men play mas!’ That’s a slogan that other bands would do well to copy if real mas is to have a future.

This will be the first year SIU will have its own designated section on the road at Notting Hill, which gives it the opportunity to promote next year’s Golden Jubilee edition of St Maarten Carnival. We hear that St Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) is planning to push the boat out for the 50th anniversary so be sure to save the dates ‑ 22 April to 6 May 2019.

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