how to put on a carnival

Well-established festivities such as the Rio Mardi Gras, Notting Hill Carnival, and Gay Pride offer the chance to participate in massive events which effectively create temporary communities. Part of their appeal is the inevitability of an annual occurrence, something special which can be anticipated and prepared for. But there's nothing to stop people putting on their own DIY carnivals to either reinforce or define unique communal concerns.

All you need are at least a dozen enthusiastic participants, a lot of chicken wire, portable objects which make substantial amounts of noise, and a willingness to indulge in papier mache. While sequins are optional, a theme is essential.

Carnival is an expression of both celebration and revolution. By its definition it must challenge the status quo, or at least subvert working- day banality. Carnival totters on the obscene because it provides a licence for people to do things they wouldn't usually allow themselves to do.

Here of course is the contradiction. Carnival has traditionally been tolerated by authorities because it can be seen as a safety valve. The classic Marxist argument is that carnival is a disincentive towards revolution since the oppressed masses are given leave to let off steam and feel temporarily empowered.

The other problem is, that as a social activity, there must be some sense of order imposed on the carnival chaos. It is regulated rebellion.

On 21 Jun, I initiated a summer solstice carnival procession with two colleagues from the University of Plymouth. There were about 60 participants and preparation began a fortnight earlier. The date was chosen for a number of reasons: the pagan connotations would provide strong visual imagery; it was also the longest day of the year, and I was directing a production of Troilus and Cressida on the beach that same night. The cast made up half the participants in the procession which wound its way through Exmouth, and along the sea-front to the performance site.

The procession's themes echoed that of the production: gender transgression, sexuality, war and disease. The idea was that the celebration would start in an ordered way, presenting "nice" socially-constructed images, and would progress towards grotesque distortion by the end of the route. The centrepiece of the procession was a 10ft-high pregnant woman, carried through town, before being smashed open to reveal nasty little votive images of children.

A group of women sang lullabies, dragging baby dolls behind them from pieces of rope emerging from under their skirts.

The participants each had personal reasons for wanting to present these images, but all had in common the need to be masked in order to do so.

Masking is an emotive subject: some people feel that the mask "possesses" the inhabitant, others that the mask allows its wearer to switch on aspects of his or her personality which usually remain hidden.

Despite the fact that the route was planned and the props made in advance, the procession was largely a spontaneous affair. You can collect most of the ingredients but the recipe isn't complete without the setting and onlookers.

Exmouth is a seaside resort and a retirement community. The sight of 20 whirling crepe-papered percussionists followed by giant phalluses and matriarchal symbols surprised, but did not faze, the pensioners eating ice-cream on a summer evening. Only the motorists stuck behind the procession were angered. The police were simply concerned that we weren't asking for money.

Our carnival was selfish, but not in the sense of making money. We wanted to express our fantasises and be tolerated while doing so. The essence of carnival is transforming the personal into the public. It is a shared experience and anybody can do it.

ROBERTA MOCK

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas