It’s Carnival season in London and all the mas bands, both large and small, are launching their costumes for what will be the 51st extravaganza in Notting Hill come August bank holiday. One of our favourite costumes this year is Rock Royalty, a private section to be hosted by D Riddim Tribe. Red and mint greet is not an obvious colour combination and yet – this works just beautifully! Masqueraders have a choice of frontline or backline with an additional corset and shorts options for extra coverage. As for me, I was feeling FIRE in my cage bra at the launch (pictured center) and both front and backline has this cage bra option at a small additional cost.

The designer of this section, Cat Rock, has been playing mas since 1990 and Barbados Crop Over was her first carnival experience. She has attended carnivals in Barbados, Holland, and Germany too so is very much in the know about what carnival is all about and its importance in the Black community. Glam Africa caught up with Cat for a chat:

Glam: Why is Notting Hill Carnival important to the Caribbean community?  

Cat Rock: Because it represents the struggles of our fore-parents to integrate and to create a diverse community in West London during a period of extreme racism and hostility. The fact that it has stood the test of time to reach a 50-year milestone and beyond, shows the resilience of our community. Now with the Windrush immigration crisis, this is once again a crucial celebration of who we are and where we come from.

Glam: Is carnival African culture as well?

Cat Rock: Carnival usually represents the start of the Lenten season, for example in Trinidad, Brazil and New Orleans.  However, in some Caribbean countries, it is a celebration of the end of the harvest season by enslaved Africans. This occurred during the short period between harvest and sowing when the back-breaking farm work was suspended before new crops were planted for the upcoming season. Plantation owners allowed the enslaved peoples to dress up and celebrate the end of the harvest. They would often mimic the dress and mannerisms of the plantation owners during the festivities. The first modern carnival is thought to have originated in Trinidad in the 18th Century and was a celebration of emancipation through dress, music and dancing which later spread to neighbouring islands.

And carnival now exists all over the Caribbean at different times of the year. In Jamaica, it usually takes place early to mid-April. In St Vincent, there is Vincy Mas in the summertime. Martinique Carnival happens in the last days before Lent. In Haiti, they celebrate Haitian Defile Kanaval which happens on the last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. The Cayman Island celebrate Batabano in May and is one of the youngest carnivals. It is a celebration of African history in the Caribbean. Barbados Crop Over has been celebrated for more than 200 years and can be traced back to 1780.  It is a six-week long festival tradition paying homage to the end of the sugar cane harvest, starting in May and ending on the first Monday in August. The roots of the carnival are tied to colonialism, religion and slavery. So YES it is African culture too. Because the enslaved were Africans before they were Caribbeans.

Glam: Absolutely! So where did the Rock Royalty idea spring from?

Cat Rock: I have been making costumes for various bands since 1999 and always dreamed of striking out on my own. I wanted a title that reflected my personality and incorporated my name at the same time. My surname is Rock and as my intention is to always give my customers the royal treatment, the brand Rock Royalty was conceived. This is our second year in action! Last year we were hosted by Funatiks Mas who are always organised and give a great service on the day. I like the fact that they have a diverse mix of people and the band members are verging on the mature side rather than young adults. This year we are a part of d Riddim Tribe though which is very exciting! I like its young, vibrant vibe and have done boat trip collaborations with them for the past four years so we just seemed like a natural fit…

Glam: Congratulations! So what are your top five tips for novice masqueraders?

Cat Rock: I would say don’t wear expensive jewellery, put on comfortable shoes like trainers or flats because it will be a long day and drink plenty of water throughout to keep hydrated. Make sure too, that you have a carnival survival pack for the road which includes but is not limited to wet wipes, your mobile phone, hand sanitiser, money, sunblock, a compact mirror and some lipstick. Lastly, arrange a meeting point with friends before you hit the road. You are bound to get separated and lose each other at some point so be prepared just in case.

Glam: That’s great, any final thoughts to add?

Cat Rock: Carnival is everything, get ready! You’re going to have the time of your life!

So readers if you like the look of these stunning costumes designed by cat Rock and fancy masquerading as Notting Hill Carnival 2018 then sign up now! Registration is open and costumes are selling fast…


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