Saturday, June 05, 2010

Cuba Street Carnival

Batucada at the Cuba Street Carnival 2009.
I remember discussing the Cuba Street Carnival with Chris Morley-Hall, back when it was but a twinkle in his eye.

Having been involved with The Gathering for a few years by that point I knew how much effort, blood, sweat and tears it took to create a "happening" out of nothing - how much it took out of you and how long it could take to turn that twinkle of an idea into something real and tangible and successful.

I just want to say how much I admire Chris for having taken up the challenge and making the Cuba Street Carnival into the 150,000-people success it had become by 2009.

I'm not going to speculate on exactly why the Carnival has hit this bump in the road - the stories and reports don't make sense at the moment - there are obviously some big pieces of info missing, and I hope we get the opportunity to find out more soon.

Wellington Batucada, for example, probably wouldn't exist if it weren't for Chris and the Cuba Street Carnival. We originally formed in November 2001 to perform in the Carnival, and we've been a part of it ever since - and in the process have become a part of Wellington's culture in the same way as the Carnival has.

Events like the Rugby Sevens, the Cuba Street Carnival, the Wellington Festival of the Arts and the Fringe Festival are some of what makes Wellington such a special place to live. All those wonderful events bring colour and a little bit of magic to our city, and make it a place to be proud of.

Each of these events also creates its own little set of ripples in the Wellington pond which further enrich our city. Just as The Gathering inspired a whole generation of DJs and makers of electronica to come out of their bedrooms and into the light of live performance, so events like the Cuba Street Carnival provide a huge number of creative people with a wonderful, joyous, fantabulous excuse to push their creativity and their showmanship to new levels every two years.

The Batucada crew, for example, worked every day for two months on our float and our costumes for the 2009 event, and we start rehearsing our performance pieces months before the big day. It's always been a huge part of who we are and what we do.

Being a part of the Carnival (and winning the Supreme Award) has positive spin-offs for us too - our beginners' course that followed soon after the Carnival last year had more than three times as many participants as normal, and we've continued to get big numbers to our courses since then as well. We continue to grow and improve, and love what we do - and a lot of that is due to our ongoing participation in the Cuba Street Carnival.

Chris can be proud that he has made such a huge contribution to our performing arts culture over the past 10 years, just as we can be proud that our membership of Batucada brings colour to many events in and around the city throughout the year.

I'm completely gutted that there won't be another Carnival next year. I'm crossing my fingers and praying that this will be a temporary hiatus and that we'll all be back again with bells on in 2013 (if not sooner!)

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