When I moved to Acomb Street in 1986, my friend Joe, a Cowesby Street native, made me swear on my life that I would never go into the Robin Hood pub for my own safety. So when the Moss Side Carnival parade made its way along Lloyd Street the next summer, I snatched this photo of the pub’s clientele to satisfy my curiosity. Of course, everyone looks perfectly friendly! I now realise Joe probably didn’t want me to find him in The Robin Hood in case I reported back to his girlfriend – but I was so naive, this never occurred to me at the time.
During the nineties, I met some Trinidadian students at the Man Alive Club in All Saints where I worked. Initially I thought they were Welsh because of their accents. They enthused about ‘Carnival’ so much that I began to appreciate it is Trinidad’s national obsession.
The Trinidad Carnival takes place around February or March, on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The dates depend upon when Lent and Easter fall. There is also a wild street party in town on the Sunday evening, called ‘J’ouvert’, mainly for the younger people.
Trinnies plan their costumes months in advance. They pay to join a particular mas camp, based on family or friendship ties, and then they spend more money buying the costume from the camp organisers – every year the costumes are themed differently.
Then for two days, young and old march for hours around Port of Spain through the heat of the day, led by massive trucks carrying speakers blasting out at top volume. The procession ends up in Queen’s Park Savannah, which is similar to Alexandra Park in some respects, though much bigger (about five times the size). Like Alexandra Park, the Savannah is flanked on at least one side by late Victorian Gothic residences, the grandest of which are known as The Magnificent Seven.
When I went in 2000, marchers brought their own refreshments for the most part, because the businesses which lined the route were shut. The only food and drink available were from one very expensive hotel, or the ad hoc street vendors. I elected not to purchase a drink from one of these when I noticed blood on the ice packed around the bottles and cans… presumably from someone’s cut finger.
When my friend fell off a truck and broke her ankle, there were almost no staff at the hospital to treat her because everybody was out revelling.
There is intense rivalry between the soca artists over which songs will emerge as the most popular carnival anthems. ‘Innuendo songs’ are often very successful:
Becket – Small Pin
Preacher – Market Vendor (Two Sapodillas And A Nine Inch Banana)
Apparently ‘soca’ means ‘soul of calypso’… the diverse influences in soca music reflect the great cultural diversity of Trinidad and Tobago’s population.
I took a few pictures of the 2012 Caribbean Carnival in Manchester and was struck by the absence of men in costume. Here in Manchester, women and children seem to embrace the Trinidadian Carnival spirit but most men seem to remain much more reserved.
These marchers on Withington Road look just like a Trinidadian carnival band: