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Carnival 2023: Troupes brave turbulent weather to celebrate Windrush 75

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People came en masse to attend a special edition of Derby’s annual Caribbean Carnival commemorating the Windrush Generation.

Taking place 75 years after the HMT Empire Windrush brought hundreds of passengers from the West Indies to England, the event was a jubilant celebration of the Caribbean community’s contribution to the country.

Carnival is already one of the city’s most significant summer events, and this year organisers from the Derby West Indian Community Association pulled out all the stops to mark the landmark anniversary, said councillor and DWICA board member Cecile Wright. “We need to acknowledge that this event originally came about because of the creativity of those who came here as part of the Windrush Generation,” she said. “This is their legacy to Derby and to the entirety of the United Kingdom.”

DWICA chairman George Mighty – who came to Derby from Jamaica in 1961 – said he felt grateful for the opportunity to honour his peers and predecessors at this year’s Carnival. “Our theme this year is the Windrush Generation coming to rebuild Britain, and that is reflected in the costumes,” he said, referring to Derby’s gold, red and green-clad troupe. “We also won the regional queen costume competition, which is a brilliant thing for us.”

Derby’s costumes this year were designed by 23-year-old Niaz Stephenson, who has been volunteering at DWICA since he was only ten. “There’s loads of hidden meanings,” the up-and-coming designer explained. “The flags at the bottom of the costume symbolise the generation planting their roots into the ground, and the triangle shapes represent bunting, with little logos inside to show what they helped rebuild, including the NHS, factories, coal mines, trains and buses.”

“I made the queen and troupe costumes in a very short amount of time, so I was scared of stuff going wrong,” he continued. “After the day finished and I got home, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt proud. Seeing everyone in stuff I made doesn’t seem real – it still hasn’t hit me.”

The costumes were especially put to the test this year due to a series of short-lived torrential downpours that took place at numerous points during the four-hour procession. Nonetheless, the Derby crew and their nine supporting regional troupes – a record high for DWICA – kept dancing through both rain and shine until their arrival at Osmaston Park.

“Rain never stops Carnival,” insisted Mr Mighty. “The crowd looked reasonable, and people seemed to be enjoying themselves, so we couldn’t ask for much more. We had faith and we carried on.”

The park was brimming with people who had come to celebrate, many of whom had followed the procession from various points along the way. Although some of the troupes had to head home early – Rampage Mas Band travelled all the way from Luton, for instance – guests flocked around the main stage to enjoy the dance performances and live music acts.

Likewise, traders were out in full force to supply everyone at the park with great food, drink and souvenirs, noted DWICA’s Nezrine Hudson. “The stall holders who had pre-booked have all turned up,” she said. “We were worried that, seeing the rain, they may decide not to come – but they’re all here, so I hope they’ve had a very pleasant and profitable day.”

Cllr Wright added: “May we go from strength to strength. We’ve been doing this for decades and we’re so pleased that people think so highly of the community and trust us to put on something that is spectacular on an annual basis.”

Photos by Jamie Morris & Seif-El-Deen Abushkhaidem

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