There’s something magical about the art of parading, as Erica Boothby (Et al.) discovered in her chocolate experiments “shared experiences are amplified-even when the coexperiencers do not communicate about what they are experiencing” (Boothby 2014: 2215). Unfortunately it is easy to see the negative of this in the wake of the U.S. protests on the Capitol which turned into a siege on the building. You could argue that this is a group of frustrated people (albeit with weapons) feeling and intensifying their experiences together.
Carnival uses a similar notion but towards a more positive end. I would like to interrogate this intense and positive feeling more intensely. What happens when instead of frustration you put a combination of: music, dance, beauty, friends, community. It is a sense that I can personally only describe as magic. A new appreciation for your environment and an exhilarating sense of beauty. While there are some people who find it an overwhelming amount of sensations, many people who experience carnival become truly hooked. This is not just from experiencing it themselves but by feeling that this experience should be shared and that everyone should have this feeling of artistic magic and community.
So let us talk about corona, it is of no doubt that this year has taken a toll on everyone. Our group Pumpkin Jigsaw have attempted to survive and have still tried to keep a little bit of this magic while negotiating with the 2020 pandemic. The first first lockdown favoured us with two new projects. With the help of Sound Connections we also formed a video series aimed at getting some of the magic of carnival without needing anything people did not already own. We asked how you would bring this magic into your home? Is it possible to have a magical experience with household objects? Who is your community when you are at home? The result was Homebeats, a four part video series aimed at exploring and having carnival fun at home alone or with other people. I think when you are home alone it is hard to think of ways to see your objects and day to day life in other lights. In some part this was an attempt to do so. In terms of our work as a band we still wanted to work on an album and spent time in the evenings learning musical skills and making music on our computers at home.
Coming into the summer of 2020, lockdown had eased up a little and we made our way to weekly rehearsals outside, much to the excitement of the children and families in Finsbury Park. It was for our benefit too as we really enjoy playing and seeing each other. We managed one parade last year for the Kingswood Estate and it was great to see people on the parade route again and families coming out of their houses and peering ecstatically through windows. We also teamed up with the capoeira group Angoleiros Do Mar and the dancers Mel Adams and Naira to build a fun full day of Brazilian themed events which we did twice called Amigos Do Verão.
It would be fair to say that the last year has been tough. The uncertainty has made it incredibly difficult to plan events and to bring this sense of magic in the way we envisage. Although it is a struggle to know whether music, performance arts and touring will survive in the same capacity from the knockout of both Covid-19 and the new Brexit regulations. It is also important to remember and engage in shared artistic experiences in any safe capacity, to feel this sense of joy and community more intensely.
Boothby J. (et al.) 2014. Shared Experiences Are Amplified in Psychological Science
2014, Vol. 25 (12) 2209–2216. Sage.