“Is my tree leaning over?” isn’t something I’d normally expect to hear on a Bank Holiday Sunday morning, but this was the situation I found myself in as I stood outside Wales Millennium Centre last Sunday in the rain, waiting for Butetown Carnival Parade to begin. “You look great,” I reassured the man stood in front of me wearing a tree trunk on his head, the branches and leaves swaying from side-to-side in the wind.

 

 

The Parade (organised by The BEAT Centre) began promptly at 12pm, with colourful carnival-goers dressed as birds, bees, flowers and trees dancing and marching their way down Bute Street and on to Loudoun Square, finishing up next to Butetown Community Centre in Canal Park at 1pm. Despite the rain, they didn’t let anything dampen their spirits.

Unfortunately, the wet weather did mean that the first day of the carnival was a bit of a wash-out, but the fun continued on Bank Holiday Monday, by which time the rain had stopped. The second day of the carnival saw live music and dance acts taking place on stage, featuring local artists and performers. Meanwhile, food took the form of traditional Caribbean cuisine served both from Butetown Community Centre, and from food stalls set up in Canal Park.

 

 

Established over 50 years ago as a Mardi Gras-type celebration, Butetown Carnival came to an end in 1998 but was revived in 2014 following community demand.

As I munched on my jerk chicken, I chatted to local resident and carnival-goer, Christine Somersall O’Driscoll, who has released a book of poems and short stories about her experience of growing up in Butetown. According to Christine, during its heyday, Butetown Carnival would see the whole of Canal Park filled with stalls and carnival-goers and it’s thanks to local resident and carnival organiser, Keith Murrell that the event is still going to this day. Keith has been involved with the Carnival since the 1970s, when he was a member of the local youth club.

 

 

“After our fifth Carnival [since its revival in 2014], it’s fair to say we’ve been successful in re-establishing the Carnival as an annual event – and in the process we’ve increasingly grown awareness and credibility beyond the community – even to the extent of being involved in the National Eisteddfod,” Keith commented. “I’m also satisfied that we’ve gone some way in presenting a more positive perception of a welcoming, inclusive and productive community.”

Looking to the future, Keith hopes to develop engaged partnerships with other local organisations such as Cardiff Council, the Welsh Assembly, the Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff Central Police Station, claiming that the Carnival’s success to-date wouldn’t have been possible without the long-term support of Wales Millennium Centre. Besides the Centre, this year’s Carnival partners included Catalydd Caerdydd, National Eisteddfod Wales and Cardiff Community Housing Association.

The dates of Butetown Carnival 2019 are yet to be confirmed, but I’m already looking forward to it!


By Kacie Morgan / The Rare Welsh Bit

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