The word Carnival brings to mind an assortment of images; for music lovers it might mean heated Calypso shows and for children it brings to mind amusement park rides and cotton candy. To those who enjoy Carnival this word may mean food fair and food/drink booths at the village. And to anyone who has experienced the Carnival parades, the word certainly brings to mind steel drums, bands, fireworks and colorful Carnival costumes.
Carnival costumes designer Clary Salandy and engineer Michael Ramdeen head the Mahogany team - a group of Harlesden based artists who create impressive kinetic sculptures and carnival costumes for street theatre and carnivals.
Formed in 1989 Salandy and Ramdeen were inspired by the world famous Trinidad Festival and now they themselves are recognized throughout the world for their complex and impressive designs. The Mahogany team have taken their skills around the UK, introducing what is known as the Mas-Making art form to areas previously unaware of it and educated many European communities in the art of the Carnival.
Probably most well known for their work on the Notting Hill Carnival, the most important date in their diary, Salandy and Ramdeen work year round on costumes and sculptures for various events around the world in Paris, Sweden and America among others. They believe that their work has brought together people from culturally diverse backgrounds and created a better understanding of varying beliefs and traditions.
Mahogany have been involved in some of the worlds most important events, making costumes and sculptures for not only carnivals but also the opening of the Millennium Dome, the opening ceremony of Euro '96 and the Lord Mayor's Parade. They have passed on their skills to ensure that this kind of work carries on worldwide through their Carnival Arts Education program.
The Mass Camp, Mahogany's base, is based on the High Street in Harlesden, on the Notting Hill Carnival route. A real part of the Harlesden community Mass Camp is open to the public five days a week. Both a workshop and a retail outlet, with costumes available to the general public the team at Mass Camp also encourage curious browsers who are interested in their work.
Mango, another Leeds-based costume-design firm, has brought the essence of carnival to costume design. Alex Christie met Rhian Millar in 1995. It may seem improbable as a romantic setting but it was love at first sight. And it was also the genesis of one of the country's most innovative (and, it has to be said, friendly) costume design companies.
When they met, Alex had just finished a graphic design degree and Rhian was about to do a foundation arts course. Later that year, they visited Trinidad, where Rhian's family is originally from. There, they worked with Rhian's aunt in a Mas Camp, one of the giant workshops where magnificent costumes are made for the Trinidad Carnival, the second-biggest carnival in the world. "Each camp makes up to 7,000 costumes, just for one carnival band," Rhian explains, "and there are twenty to thirty bands in the carnival." Peter Minshall, a well-known carnival costumes designer whose work includes the opening ceremonies of the Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics and projects for Disney, as well as carnival, ran the Mas Camp. Alex and Rhian describe him as "an inspiration".
Alex and Rhian now run their business, Mango, from home, which is a terraced house in Leeds. Their company is considered to be one of the most popular carnival costumes designer in the country. It specializes in making costumes for carnival and carnival-influenced costumes for theatre and dance. Mango has designed and constructed bright and brilliant costumes for the Leeds Carnival, dance companies, theatre productions and musicals. Perhaps their biggest success has been using their costumes to encourage a greater range of people into carnival.
Wayne Berkeley is no stranger to Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago but he is particularly for his design of award winning Carnival bands and Kings and Queens of Carnival. Wayne became a carnival costumes designer in the sixties and in 1962 won the Best Costume Design at the Carnival Queen Show. He has had the distinction of winning the Band of the Year title thirteen times, six of which were consecutive, a feat that is unparallel in Carnival history. Wayne's multifarious talents are however not limited to the Carnival stage. His activities span the globe in the arenas of theatre, dance and musicals.