Kittitans and Nevisians injected life in Manchester Carnival

Smiles at Manchester Carnival 2009

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, AUGUST 12TH 2010 (CUOPM) – As the West Indian community in Manchester, England, get ready to celebrate 40 years of Carnival, nationals of St. Kitts and Nevis are being credited with injecting life back into Carnival when they took up residence there.

After being started by one of Manchester’s first black entrepreneurs in 1970, the Caribbean Carnival will take place in Whalley Range once again.

The event to be held at Alexandra Park on Saturday and Sunday, August 14 and 15, promises a riot of floats, costumes, music and food to celebrate Caribbean culture.

The highlight is Saturday’s colourful parade which winds its way through the streets of Whalley Range and Moss Side, creating a ribbon of sight and sound through the houses.

At the park, two stages will showcase reggae, Soca and samba music and dance groups plus stalls selling clothing and food, including plenty of the ubiquitous jerk chicken, rice and peas.

“We want to bring the original culture back to the carnival so young people taking part can be educated,” says Mike Bisson, who was born in Trinidad but now lives in Moss Side and has helped organise the carnival for seven years.

“Rio might be more famous but we all know Trinidad does the best carnival – and in proportion to the population, it’s the biggest! People from St. Kitts and Nevis injected life back into the carnival when they came here too.

“We want to get it back to the way it was when it was started in the 1970s by Billy Hanley.”

Hanley was one of Manchester’s first black entrepreneurs, who ran a bakery in Trafford Park.

He decided to organise the first carnival, staging it in 1970 at Belle Vue Hall in Kirkmanshulme Lane and paying for it himself.

It was such a success it became an annual event held in Alexandra Park from 1972.

A band of seven volunteers now organise the event each year, and Mike has even enlisted his son, the actor Chris Bisson – who played Vikram in Coronation Street and currently stars in Emmerdale – to raise the event’s profile with sponsors.

“Alexandra Park is the carnival’s spiritual home,” says Mike. “The community would kick up a fuss if it was moved!”

This year’s carnival takes the theme ‘diversity explosion,’ with Caribbean culture taking centre stage along with other African performers.

The carnival takes place from midday to 8pm both days. The parade leaves Alexandra Park at midday on Saturday, returning at 3.30pm.

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