“I’ve been involved with Carnival from the age of 6 or 7 growing up in Trinidad. I began making mas as a little boy. We used to make individual mas then. I remember being an ‘Indian’. Taking mum’s old table clothes and painting them to make the robes and we used to save chicken feathers throughout the year to use for the headdresses. When I was about 10, a group of us young boys collected old steelpans that the panyards had discarded. My friend used to tune them to the best of his ability and we set up a steelband.
This was my introduction to those two essential carnival arts... Mas and Pan.
My interest continued well into my teens, and I learnt essential mas making skills like wire-bending, moulding and and stencil-making which I brought to London with me in 1961. I have lived in the Ladbroke Grove area ever since. And attended the very first street event in 1965 that birthed the Notting Hill Carnival.
Very early on I organised mas camps, printed t-shirts, set up a print shop, got sponsorship and things grew from there. From 1981 until 1987 I was the Representative for The London Brotherhood of Steel, later to become the British Association of Steelbands. I worked directly with the NHC organisers at the time. In 1980 I launched the steelband ‘Mangrove’ along with Frank Critchlow, owner of the legendary Mangrove Restaurant and local activist. We joined Mangrove masband. I’m happy to say both Mangrove mas and Mangrove steelband thrived and are still going strong today.
In fact, in recent years, myself and others decided to start a section within Mangrove Mas called the ‘Veterans’. We design our own mas that compliments the main theme, but is more appealing to the elders. It caters for those of us who have been involved for many years and still wish to take part.”