The Elimu Carnival Band was started by me as part of my work with young people at the Elimu centre. I was working as a Senior Youth Worker, and we had a youth workers meeting to discuss how we could engage with the young people who were attending carnival but did not necessarily understand the meaning of carnival. And I said I would bring out a band, I thought it would be a good project to do, young people will learn about different things, they can get involved in making things, they will meet different people, and it will help to broaden their horizons. And I thought it would be fantastic to do it, so I went back to Elimu and I raised it with Ansel, who was Director of the Elimu project. Elimu centre was helping the young people with their education , helping people who spoke patois,
It was my work to make sure we had all the people we needed to make the band happen. I am still very involved even though we have changed with the times, I worked for ILEA and then for Westminster Youth Service, so it was always a big project that could involve many young people and youth workers across the borough.
Today I am the Chair of the committee that decide the themes, or if we do other carnivals abroad or exhibitions in schools, I am still involved in all that.
The word Elimu has a very good meaning, it means Education or Learning in Swahili. And the motto of the band is Each One Teach One.
In the first year we had around 150 people in the band through outreach and my links with the schools and also the theme we chose was People of the Caribbean and this lent itself to people wanting to play, because even though there are many people from the Caribbean in our community, knowledge and awareness of the Caribbean was not that great. So we looked at the main ethnic groups in our community. We had the European represented by the English in terms of colours we wore, and crowns which represented England; we looked at the Indians which was a lovely costume which I played with nose rings and so on; we also looked the Chinese, they had hats and a bright yellow cape; and then the African section, which really stole the show, because the artist working with us could do tie-dye and fabric enhancement and when we came out there was a band playing the flute and we looked very good, and we had individuals, King and Queen etc. it worked well and it was very colourful and we were all very pleased.
The biggest band we’ve had was when we were at St Augustine School and was called ‘Ah Raisin Hell’ , we had some really traditional characters like the Imps, the Devils, Bukman, the Jab Molasses. Our designer was Meilin Sancho, but through my contacts I brought in Judith from the Royal Ballet and she was able to show us how to articulate some of the features of the individuals, so we were able to attract a lot of people from the area as well as our usual families, and we were massive and we won second prize.
When the council closed down the Elimu centre in 1990 we had to find a new base every year for our carnival band until I met up with you (Steve) at a Youth Workers meeting and you invited us to do mas with you at Paddington Arts. This was taken up very positively by the group and in 2001 we came to Paddington Arts and the partnership has been working very successfully since then.
When I first suggested we bring out a band, my colleagues looked at me in amazement. We got a Sttepand though my contacts, Meilin I knew socially
A band is where everybody with skills comes through, we had someone who could do silk screening
We come in the area and open it up so they would know what’s happening, meeting divers people, diverse professions, Diane Abbot played in the band, you saw lecturers, teachers, councillors, it was nice for people to be in that sort of ambiance, that sort of atmosphere to know what was going on in the world.
It is amazing that Elimu still happens
Elimu means to me a fantastic opportunity
Whatever we do there are many people who are willing to share, willing to give, and to show that good side of humanity and especially young people also have something to offer, and everyone works well together and the meaning of Elimu id Knowledge and Edcation, and Each One Teach One is something that can keep you focussed and wanting to carry on and do more
There are many benefits that they know the Band happens, it is something they can participate in, they can experience a bit of culture , they can get information, because of the different professionals, and also because we’ve kept going in spite of having to move from place to place we are still here. Elimu has shown that people from all over the Caribbean and all over the world can come together and work together and that’s lovely.