St Paul’s Carnival will not be taking place this year, with its new organisers instead promising that preparations will start in the summer to mark the 50th anniversary event in 2018.
But previous organisers of the carnival are still hosting a scaled-down event at the Malcolm X Centre on July 1 as confusion remains as to who are the true custodians of the world famous party.
Lakota are also putting on an event on the same day called Jungle Carnival, billed as “celebrating the return of Bristol’s beloved Carnival”.
The carnival was cancelled in 2015 and was not held last year after the council and Arts Council England (ACE) pulled funding amid allegations of mismanagement.
A carnival committee was set up, out of which came a new community interest company (CIC) originally tasked with ensuring that St Paul’s Carnival should return in 2017 in a “minimal form” in order to put in the groundwork for 2018’s landmark half-century celebration.
The commission recommended that this year’s minimum requirements should include family activities, a procession and sound systems, but even that proved too much to arrange, so the carnival’s new organisers are instead putting on a brave face and looking forward to 2018.
The new St Pauls Carnival CIC promises that the revived carnival “will represent the best of African Caribbean culture, as well as the immense diversity, creativity and vibrancy of its home city”.
“I know how carnival influenced my sense of identity growing up and I want my children and future generations to be able to share in that experience too,” said David Harris, also known as Apuuli, chair of St Pauls Carnival CIC.
“In 2018 we will deliver a carnival which returns to its roots and does justice to carnival’s rich history, in a way that is safe and family-friendly.”
This year, the new organisers say that they want to work with local people and partners to run “smaller scale, warm-up activities, particularly focused on children, young people and families”.
Members of the public interested in getting involved with St Paul’s Carnival are also being invited to get in touch with ideas for volunteering, performing and community engagement ideas.
Carole Johnson, St Paul’s Carnival CIC director and Labour councillor for Ashley ward, said: “St Pauls Carnival was created to bring sunshine to the streets of Bristol and 50 years later it is as much-loved as ever.
“We want to harness the positivity and passion from everyone wanting to get involved with carnival and really encourage anyone interested to get in touch via our new social channels, website or to come along to our planning event in St Pauls to meet the board and share ideas.”
Cleo Lake, the former chair of St Paul’s Carnival and Green Party councillor for Cotham, said that despite the new organisation only forming in late 2016, “it is extremely disappointing and regrettable that expectations were not managed or communicated earlier”.
She said: “I am hugely concerned about the economic impact of another year without Carnival not least on local businesses but also the Caribbean community at large within the UK and beyond.
“Speaking from experience, as well as the planned fringe events and schools programme, I would urge the new team to focus this year on delivering accredited event management training for local people so that they may once again be in the driving seat of managing the event.
“Communication and community engagement will be crucial going forwards as the clock ticks towards 2018.”
On July 1, the traditional day of Carnival, previous carnival organisers St Paul’s Afrikan Caribbean Carnival (SPACC) are hosting an event at Malcolm X featuring performances, live music, food, stalls, and children’s and elders’ activities.
Since SPACC had their funding withdrawn from the city council and ACE, the group is now self-sustaining.
In a statement, SPACC said: “It is our understanding that in early 2017 public funds have been given to a new group who registered their organisation as St Paul’s Carnival CIC (Bristol) to put on a main event for 2017 to which is not happening due to their lack of resources or sponsorship which is nothing to do with our organisation.
“SPACC are willing to work with Carnival CIC to deliver a main event in 2018 but as it stands at present we are two separate entities, this will come to fruition once they addressed some concerns we have.”