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Bristol Post
Bristol Post
Tanya Waterworth

St Pauls Carnival project teaches people young and old that it's 'not just a party'

Bringing the meaning of St Pauls Carnival to wider audiences has been a goal for Bristol film maker, Keziah Wenham-Kenyon. This week saw the message of the famous carnival being shared by community elders, who visited The Monica Wills House Retirement Village along with pupils from Fairlawn Primary School.

For Keziah, who has directed and produced the film ‘Inna Wi Carnival: Reflections of a Generation’, which explores the roots of the carnival, it was a ‘full circle moment’ as the pupils greeted the residents with a steelpan performance.

“It was really beautiful, it was a full circle for me as I also played steelpan when I was at school and we visited a retirement village,” he said, adding that the visit also provided opportunities for intergenerational exchanges. “It can be a mutual exchange as both generations are valued,” he said.

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Keziah is the community engagement co-ordinator for St Monica Trust, who organised the visit to the retirement village, which saw residents enjoying the film as part of the event. It was the Trust’s support which led to the film, which focused on gathering the stories from Caribbean community elders in St Pauls and preserving the traditions for future generations.

The film provides an oral history of the origins of the carnival, which started at the St Pauls Festival in 1968. It started as a community event organised by local residents and activists to bring together the African-Caribbean, Asian and European communities.

Food was served from people’s front gardens and the idea was to challenge negative stereotypes of the area. Keziah said he wanted to capture those stories before it’s too late to pass down to future generations.

Director and producer of Inna Wi Carnival : Reflections of a Generation, Keziah Wenham-Kenyon (Supplied)

He said: “One of the elders Leoline Lyn Pandora Coleman passed recently and this makes the project even more impactful and special as her words have been immortalised. For the elders it’s been a big thing for them to see their stories on a big screen and for our younger production team, it felt like more than just work, it was community work."

In 1991, the event was renamed 'St Pauls Afrikan-Caribbean Carnival', which through song, art, music and movement, portrays the lives and histories of Bristol’s African Caribbean communities. Keziah, who is of Caribbean heritage, said he wanted to highlight that the Carnival was not “just a party”.

“It was born out of struggle, resilience and community. At the heart of this project is story-telling, it’s like an oral capsule which will withstand the test of time,” said Keziah. He added: “As much as it’s for the community, it is also for the wider community to understand carnival in a more deep-rooted context.”

St Pauls Carnival has announces its return with a special carnival on July 1, 2023 and a series of events to mark the 75th anniversary of Windrush. St Pauls Carnival 2018, Bristol (Bhagesh Sachania)

Keziah studded audio production and started his career with community radio, which saw him being introduced to the Caribbean community. He said: “I feel purposeful about my work and I am grateful if I can see my work has impact, serves the community and challenges issues such as racial injustice.”

He said the initial stage of the project started with engaging with the older generations in the St Pauls community to combat social isolation caused by the pandemic. “We then continued working with the same group of elders to capture and preserve the stories of the generation that brought the carnival over to the UK from the Caribbean.

“There were a number of ways we could have gone about it, but after discussions with the elders and the team, we decided that making a documentary was the best way of preserving their memories for future generations.” He added that they hope the film will be the first of a series and that Inna Wi Carnival: Reflections of a Generation has been sent to various film festivals and will go online later this year.

The St Monica Trust was established more than 100 years ago and the Trust’s Charitable Impact Team works on a number of projects, and have been working alongside St Pauls Carnival since 2019 when they first funded the Elders Brunch.

Director of Charitable Impact, Adam Rees said: “The funding has helped to ensure that the traditions and history of Bristol’s iconic Carnival celebrating African-Caribbean culture are secure and that these traditions and skills are passed on through the generations."

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