Mahogany costumes have Carnival all sewn up

13 June 2017

Watching the Notting Hill Carnival pass by, you see little of the sweat, time and tears that goes into making the colourful creative costumes.

Clary Salandy is all too well aware of what it takes, designing costumes for the Caribbean celebration for over 30 years from her workshop in Harlesden.

She is the artistic director and one of the founders of the most innovative costume group at Notting Hill Carnival - Mahogany - who have scooped a long line of awards in recent years.

Clary moved to London from her native Trinidad where fellow founder and trusted engineer Michael Ramdeen is also from, and has wowed the crowds ever since. So much so that she was invited to help in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee and the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012.

“I remember our first major event was Euro 96 right here in London. It was our first real big scale show which we learnt a lot from and since then we have not stopped. But the Notting Hill Carnival is the one I am thinking about all year round. I am always trying to find a new concept to entertain the crowd. It’s my voice. It’s my culture. It’s about giving back to the community,” said Clary.

This year’s carnival preparation has already begun with the concept decided and drawings made up however Clary, who has lived in Brent for over 30 years, was tight lipped about the theme for the two-day event in August.

As well as the Notting Hill Carnival, Clary also dedicates her time to helping young people, particularly young artists who she feels have an even tougher challenge breaking into the art world.

At the time of interviewing Clary, she was helping young people by working away on a sun-like yellow piece of decorative art that will be competing in a carnival in South Africa

Back in the workshop inside Harlesden Methodist Church’s main hall, it was all hands on deck as Clary explained that a core team of six create the Notting Hill carnival theme each year and then in July, the costume making begins with the help of local people, children and even entire families as mums and dads from Brent work alongside their children.

“There is always something for someone to do. In our team we have the performers, those who make and perform, do the hair and make-up, cook food. The list is endless.


Party atmosphere

Another Brent resident has also been rocking Notting Hill Carnival with his SOUND throughout the decades after performing at his first carnival in 1979. Lewis Benn forms part of the Mastermind Roadshow, one of the pioneers of the RnB and Hip Hop sound system movement.

Mastermind worked with big names such as Soul 2 Soul and Tim Westwood and created a musical hotspot under the Westway that local music lovers flooded to before Mastermind relocated to the borough border between Brent and Kensington and Chelsea to play the Carnival at Canal Way.

“In addition to generating a party atmosphere musically, we tend to want to showcase upcoming young talent sprinkled with some established artists for the stage show plus guest DJ’s who buy into the Mastermind ethic of the ultimate party atmosphere,” said Lewis.

“It is all about the carnival experience which is about celebrating Caribbean culture and the bringing together of all people from around the world and diverse backgrounds to share in and experience this unique London celebration.”

Lewis has performed at Carnival for over 35 years but it all started in Kensal Rise where the members of Mastermind first got together and began to develop their sound.