Hackney Carnival 2017

Sr Nuala McGinley writes about the Hackney Carnival 2017 that saw 30,000 people line the streets between Hackney Town Hall and Regent’s Canal and where the first ever Carnival Elders bus, organised by St Joseph’s Hospice, made an appearance.

Sunday 10th September marked the day for celebrating difference in Hackney. We celebrated different countries, different colours, different cultures. There was spectacular colour, imaginative designs and unbelievable energy displayed by all who took part. It was a real showstopper, brightening the borough’s streets like a ray of tropical sunshine. For the first time St. Joseph’s Hospice took part. A beautifully decorated bus full of people, mainly elderly, travelled on an open-top bus to the Town Hall. Everyone entered into the fun. It was wonderful to see many of these otherwise lonely people having such enjoyment. They rose to the atmosphere of the occasion and had their faces painted and their hair coloured. Our bus was the second float of twenty three. We had pride of place as we were positioned right opposite the Town Hall. The costumes were fabulous. Many of them depicted flowers of every hue from daffodils to orchids, from daisies to sunflowers. It was so beautiful, really marvellous to behold. The dance routines were extraordinary as the dancers kept a steady rhythm in time to their particular drum beat. What I found really amazing was the dancers on stilts some of them as tall as ten feet. Gyrating did not seem to bother them much. It truly was breath-taking.

Along the way there was a minute’s silence to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire and those affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. Most of the people taking part are of West Indian origin. It was really heartening to see how the people of Hackney supported and appreciated all the hard work that had gone into organising such an outstanding display of human solidarity and friendship. It was great. I was particularly impressed by the numbers of families who came out and lined the streets. Thirty thousand people attended. There were young children wearing brightly coloured outfits in keeping with the occasion, many of them waving flags. There was a wonderfully joyous atmosphere with many teenagers enjoying the fun. The camaraderie was palpable. I was so happy to experience so many teenagers enjoying one another’s company in love and peace. It was a big change from hearing of young people killing each other with knives as we have heard so often in the Hackney area in recent times. May this peace continue!

The weather held up quite well until the last float had performed and displayed their unique style of dress and dance. As we drove towards Ridley Road, drizzly rain started. Those who had been in the open area on top of our bus, quickly moved either down to the lower deck or to the covered area on top. When the procession ended, the carnival atmosphere continued with a finale in Ridley Road where live music was played, D.J.s performed and a host of food stalls were set up till 8pm. They say Hackney massive carnival event which is funded by the Council and organised by its culture team together with local carnival groups was the best ever this year.

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