Steve Hunt (St. Paul’s Carnival) Interview

Interviewee: Steve Hunt

Interviewer: Mike Jenkins

Organisation: St. Paul’s Carnival

Date: 26/01/12

Interview: 25:32

MIKE: Ok, so say that again then?

STEVE: My names Steve and I’m the general manager of St Pauls African Caribbean Carnival.

MIKE: Ok. Um, how long have you worked for the um, organisation?

STEVE: Err, about 2 years exactly.

MIKE: 2 Years.

STEVE: But I’ve been going to it for about 30 years.

MIKE: Ok, 30 years. So how long um, has the St Paul’s Carnival been around for?

STEVE: 44, 1967 was the first one.

MIKE: So that was when the first one…

STEVE: Yep.

MIKE: all started, yep. Ok.

STEVE: So 45 years next year.

MIKE: 45 years. So what’s the um, can you give us a sort of general um, like overall of the purpose and function of the organisation?

STEVE: The, err, purpose of the organisation is, I’m going to have to cheat.

MIKE: OK.

STEVE: (Pause) Is the thing turned on?

MIKE: Yeah, yeah, of course not, of course not. But all this can get um, edited.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

MIKE: That’s why I’m not…

STEVE: Um, the objects of the organisation is to advance the education of the public in the appreciation and practice of Africa, African and Caribbean arts and culture and by this we help, hope to deliver sustainable safe annual free Carnival celebration, now and in the future, encourage participation in Carnival arts, promote inclusion across the diverse population, educate the local and the wider community on the history and issues affecting Black African and Caribbean people, embedding artistic innovation through all activities and to optimise, optimise the organisational performance and ensure compliance with legal requirements and promote ethical governance.

MIKE: Ok. Um, what made you decide to join the organisation?

STEVE: There had a job going. No, I can’t say that (laughter). Um, I’ve worked in events all my life and err, I saw this err, advertised and having been to it and known a bit about it, err, yeah, it was really appealing and its, I live in Bristol so it’s good to stay where you live rather than go London.

MIKE: Alright.

STEVE: Lose your soul.

MIKE: What um, what need do you see that the organisation fulfils within this, err, with the community?

STEVE: Um, well, it’s an amazing event and there’s a lot more to it than just the big day that everybody, most people would think about. We have um, education projects where we take artists into schools and we teach them things like drumming and dance and mask making, costumes making and things like that and this time last year we sent our sin to special schools in Bristol and they were costumes for chairs and things like this as well. And then this, and by doing, and also err, some of the schools, the artistic coordinator goes in and gives assemblies see and he tells them a bit about history of why their wearing the costume and not just Carnivals in Bristol but Carnivals going way, way back, you know, 100 of years. And um, so there’s a lot of education and what’s really cool is um, we have a youth stage at Carnival and one of the rappers on it is a big huge burley guy, there all really street and he showed me a little picture of him in, in the precession 20 years ago when he was like 5 years old. So it’s helping educate people, children and people about the area they live in and about the history and cultures that are around. Um, and that will start in sort of February, March time, so the 6months build up, just in that alone.

MIKE: Um.

STEVE: And its not just schools within sort of BS2 err, now its getting wider out, there’s more schools taking an interest and part of it’s, is because of the education bit. But also there is the fun bit, being in the precession and all that. Then beholding the precession if the children are in it, the Mum’s and the Dad’s come and then we get people coming into St Paul’s who might not normally of come here because of the bad reputation from 30 years ago and the way the press still badly portray it at times. Suddenly they come down here and realise you know, it’s a great place and it’s really, I mean the amount of talent and artistic activities going on around here, it’s phenomenal for the square mile as such. Err, and aside from that there is the mass camps which we have for a couple of months beforehand and people come in and drop in and help build costumes and sometimes they don’t build a full costume but they learn some of the skills involved and then part of that is learning as well. We have master classes, we bring people down from London, who are true Carnival Ballista’s as such, and they um, just teach, and even if they do a bit of sewing, you’ve learnt something. You can darn your socks if people still do such a thing. See what I mean. So you know, it’s not just the big party day, there’s a lot of behind, not behind the scenes, but there’s a lot of things going on as well. And if we had the money and the time and the man power, we, we do more and it’s sort of what we looking to do more of next year.

MIKE: Ok.

STEVE: Did I only answer half that?

MIKE: Yeah. No, that was good, that was good. Um, so do you ever get involved in the actual hands on sort of activities like working there…

STEVE: I don’t have time.

MIKE: You don’t have time?

STEVE: No. Ah, I’ll loved to. The mass camps are brilliant. I do like the mass camps because we’ve been lucky to get our own building for the last 2 years so its opened almost 24/7 and it’s quite nice after work to go down there and it’s, it’s not, you know, there are people who are making things but it’s an social occasions so there is always music playing and people bringing food and stuff like that. So sometimes it’s quite nice to go and chill out and be with some creative people, rather than looking at spreadsheets and (pause) heath and safety and all that sort of thing.

MIKE: So what um, what do you think of um, the BME voluntary community organisations in general, I mean are they, are they useful?

STEVE: Course they are. I think especially now and lack of jobs and things like that, um, employment, um, especially in this area. I think the more, the more voluntary groups, you know, the better as long as there, there is some probably some competition with funding um, were possibility all chasing the same small pots of money sometimes. But we try and involve as many different organisations as possible to in short you know, greater involvement err, amongst the whole community and you know, it’s just something you keep working on. But um, yeah, I think it’s, it’s, how I got into events, I volunteered. And now, (laughter), and now look at me, I’m old and haggard um, so you know, it can lead to jobs, it does, it is a good thing and it’s better to be doing something than sitting at home…

MIKE: Um, so what sort of events did you put on in the past?

STEVE: It’s mainly been music events and err, it nearly always been as they term mass participation outdoor events so and I also worked in little bits of other events but that’s more of a holiday so I go to Glastonbury and help out little bits somewhere in a corner where no one can see me and…

MIKE: Um, how would you, um, personally how would you define heritage what does it, what does it mean to you, if, if you had to define it at all, how would you define it?

STEVE: God, I’ll look at a thesaurus (laughter). Um, heritage is all the time, heritage is you know what happened yesterday is already part of your heritage isn’t it, it something that’s already passed. Since something passed its becoming heritage, it’s very strange these days err, for instance over there somebody gave me a few months ago some slides of Carnival in the 70’s. There slides now and we don’t know what to do with them because we don’t have that technology was there and then and I can get it done, it will take me you know, I just got to find the right thing. I know everything’s all digital and on its phone but you know; 100 years time there would be something else, I don’t know, a hologram or god knows what. We can’t even perceive, I’m still amazed by um, I mean iPhones and even faxes still amaze me so it’s more of a recording of it and hanging onto it but also a lot of the heritage is in people’s heads and it’s the, and it’s the you know, elders of St Pauls who can remember the old stuff and the stories but also there’s a heritage, people came over, you know, in the Wind Rush and all that sort of thing and you know, the problems they face when they first came to this country and that’s part of why Carnivals all ran in England, came about because they were trying to remember the heritage of going back to the days in the Caribbean and things like that. So it’s such a huge word um, as you probably found out when you filled in your application for heritage lottery application (laughter).

MIKE: Um, um, what I was going to say, um how would you, um, what sort of role does the actual Carnival have on the participants in like a St Paul’s and in people that are, are visiting do you think it is, is, is valid for something like that to keep going and to keep um, to keep being funded to be around?

STEVE: Well, there is so, as I said before there is so much artistic talent in the area we give the artists a huge platform to perform on. So if someone gets a slot on the main stage there playing to 10, 15, 000 people. It’s a hell of an opportunity and then if people like what they see next time they do a gig, then hopefully people will pay to go and see them and then they will make some money back that way. Um, and the Carnival creates employment because you know, the acts get paid, you know, we had to employ lots of people so we bring money into the area and help err, help stir, you know, the economy. It’s not like masses of money; it’s not like Olympic funding type thing. Um, can you repeat the question?

MIKE: Um…

STEVE: I went off on a tangent then.

MIKE: No, no that that was aright. That was just about, I mean with the St Pauls Carnival there, there’s so many different Carnivals that happen in England…

STEVE: Yeah.

MIKE: How sort of, how sufficient is the one that happens in Bristol?

STEVE: It’s quite sufficient actually because we’ve been going to lot of the other ones and err, and they’ve been coming to us. I mean, Carnivals, St Paul’s Carnival is the only one that goes on so late and as you know Notting Hill finishes finished at 7, this year. Um, some of the Carnivals are entirely funded by Councils and because Councils are cutting their money drastically at the moment so though we get some funding from the Arts Council, City Council, which we are grateful for, only covers just, well less than half of what it costs to put the Carnival on and so we’ve got a form of independence. Um, the biggest problem facing Carnivals is the costs of doing them, the health and safety and um, the commitment needed to battle through the red tape whilst at the same time getting people involved and doing all the other things that go on with Carnivals um, it’s a year round full time job for quite a few people and its quite here now but that’s because err, one person, one person is on holiday the other guy is freelance so that’s why you know, there’s not, their not needed but, you know, come back here in March and there will be 4 or 5 people in here and the phones will be ringing and the e-mails pilling up, oh I say. I think it’s just with any events, you know, there’s lot of festivals that went bust this year, people didn’t sell enough tickets, its just um, bureaucracy.

MIKE: Um, so its part of, so you, the economic situation currently is sort of, could make it harder to put the…

STEVE: Yeah.

MIKE: Carnival on in future.

STEVE: Um.

MIKE: You know.

STEVE: Yeah, totally.

MIKE: Um.

STEVE: Um, and everyone said, like I said before, everyone is chasing the same funding. People don’t have the money to donate, you know, donate or buy a programme. People don’t, maybe don’t buy enough, much or as much food as they did before or beer from the bar, we seem to lose out there all the traders they don’t sell as much food as they did the year before, because people aren’t, aren’t spending as much. You know they have a snack rather than a full on meal and things like that so um, um. God, I’ve cheered myself up now (laughter).

MIKE: So, um, so when did the Carnival start, um?

STEVE: 1967 was the first Carnival yeah, and it was, um, we’ve got the book, I’ve got a copy of the book, which we got through heritage lottery, thank you very much, um, got with their assistance and um, it started off as a precession and event and um, (pause) um, I’m just trying to find, there’s a good quote here. But it, it came from a man called Paul Stevenson’s and um, and the time of the first, well before it was the Bristol bus boycott where they wouldn’t employ Black drivers and um, you know, it was all the err, all the people coming over, coming up, getting some forms of racism and stuff like that. So it was a chance to get it going and here it is, it was originally in Eastfield Market. And then they do a precession down into Lower Ashley Road and up to The Criterion (pause) and at one time apparently they used to go down Park Row and err, you know, go right round the city. But that was in the days when it was on Lorries, but now doing Lorries is prohibited because of having to have all the health and safety and I noticed just how Bridgewater and you know, the Somerset Carnivals, they spent all year funding raising and making their floats. Whereas we have very short time period to do it so err, yeah.

MIKE: Ok. Do you see that um, I mean all the red tape, I mean when the Carnival first started there wasn’t so much red tape so…

STEVE: We did what we liked.

MIKE: Yeah, you could do what you liked.

STEVE: You, well, in the old days, you see, you could probably phone up the police say we want to shut, probably not the day but you know, a few months before and say look, were having this Carnival can you shut the road for us. In the old days the police would go and stand there and stop the traffic for you and nobody cared, nobody did fall of the back of Lorries but then if somebody did, this, this, the you know, suing culture, the no win, no fee people, the ambulance chasers, you see, so um, so you got to think about that. But it is good that you have health and safety because there have been horrible accidents and things like that, at you know, at events. Um, so yeah, in the old days, yeah, you did probably, you probably did things, nice and simple and you didn’t have to pay the police um, and they sent you that bill on the first Carnival but the Lord Mayor just stood on a bit of scaffolding and welcomed, welcomed the precession at the end of the root you know, and that was it, it was um, yeah, its, its the…

MIKE: So what’s, what’s, the sort of different um, different things, um, now a days because of the red tape, what sort of different things does the Carnival have to get funding to pay for to make sure that it happens?

STEVE: Um, on god, um. Well, I could look at our map over there. So we got all of our road closures so each road closure has to have 2 security guards on it then on top of that you have to have the right signage and barriers. Then the security guards have to have radios so there’s all the costs implicated in that. So the precession we had to have stewards walking around the precession to keep people away from the precession and, and keep people off, you know, make sure it goes around the right way. You’ve got to have load of first aiders, we’ve got to have lots of other security around just for people’s health and safety including them on what is going on. When you build a stage, you, you can’t just knock scaffolding together anymore; you have to get it done by a proper staging company. They then have to give you their wind loading err, so when it gets to wind it doesn’t blow over so you need a wind anemometer to make sure the winds not too hard. Then they have to give you their structure calculations to show that the roof is strong, the platform’s strong um, then it has to be inspected by building control to make sure it has gone up properly. When I used to have to do an event in Bath I used to have to get planning permission to put the stage up because it was there for more than 2 or 3 days um, and that we used to have to do then for 6 times yet in the paperwork for different departments. Um, then the stage has a generator, the generator you have to ensure that it’s earthed. Then you have to make sure that nobody can mess with it so you have to fence it off. You have to have fire extinguishers for it, as well as fire extinguishers for the stages. Um, the person, person who connects all the electricity up, got to be err, a proper electrical engineer, you cant just get any, though its quite simple be honest, you cant just get any Joe blogs to come and do it. The PA Company, the Lighting Company have got to provide all their risk assessments. All these people have to fill in risks assessments, their insurance, their, this year they had proper approved contractors to be able to do the work um…

MIKE: It does seem very bureaucratic.

STEVE: And, and yeah, and it’s all just ticking boxes really, and, and, it’s in effect, what it, what all this is doing is to make sure if something goes horribly wrong as long as everybody’s done their job properly, then you have like a paper trail to find out where somewhere, somebody would have done it wrong. So it’s a bit like um, how can I, airline pilots, before they fly a plane even if they’ve just flown in somewhere and their going off half an hour late, they have a check list and that’s sort of what it is. It’s a check list to make sure, so it’s somebody, so the worst thing happens and somebody’s gets killed and you’re stood in court, you could, I mean the, documentation for Carnival is like a thick file, it seems we did this, we got their risk assessment, we knew there were pre-contractors, we knew we had a copy of their insurance, you know, it just goes, on and on and on. Um, so yeah, your just worst case scenario planning. We had to do, we don’t have to do all of it, but the Event Management Company helps us do it. We had to have crow flow statistics and analysis, so if there if there’s a fire or a bomb explosion or car fire or house fire, we have to know how, we got to know how to get the fire engines everywhere and um, ambulances everywhere, and people evaluate people and all these sorts of things. All that has to go down towards the security guards and the stewards. Everyone has to know what’s going on.

MIKE: So there’s a lot, a lot…

STEVE: Oh, there’s tons…

MIKE: Goes into a…

STEVE: Um…

MIKE: to making the Carnival actually work then?

STEVE: That’s only just a little bit. Just by saying about that map, just ah, taking about that then. Um, and in, like I said, in the old days, um, you know, members of the community they built the stage. They hired some scaffolding and put it together. But it wouldn’t, you know if that stage then fell over, which it never did, but it had fallen over, somebody would have, somebody would get the blame for it and then that person would go to court and then they get fined and then they go to prison. And that’s the trouble with the fines and that it’s ridiculous, even though you have insurance you see, it would finish it off. And then insurance again is a huge some of money because your insuring, I think there’s like 9, over 90, 000 people that came to Carnival this year. You’ve got to, as well as insuring everything, you know, the performers, you’ve got to insure all the people that are there. So Sometimes…

MIKE: Ok.

STEVE: you despair of people’s behaviour.

MIKE: Yeah.

STEVE: And you’re thinking yeah.

MIKE: Because you’ve got to give them insurance.

STEVE: Well you’re, yeah, you’re yeah.

MIKE: So, um…

STEVE: But you’re, but the thing is, you’re holding the event so you are inviting the people to come into this event and take part in it. So you have to take a degree of responsibility for your actions so, yeah.

MIKE: So how um, what’s the most amount of people that’s um, ever come to Carnival, what’s the most?

STEVE: There’s probably this year. Its, its, its err, over 90, 000, they haven’t got all the figures yet but last year it was around 80,000 and we made more space this year to fit in more people to account for it and then more people came again then, I get, then we would expect, not that we were expecting but more people came in and then more again. So all the extra space we had filled up again as well and so you see, we had to tweak it, so then next year we’ve got to look at moving some more things around to make a platform, because obviously all the narrow streets, you know, Argyle and Campbell and Brighton and all of that, there quite narrow streets. And I, and people you know, don’t always move their cars when we ask them too and we toe away cars where there specifically in the way, for crowd movements and things like that. But um, yeah, its, its getting too big for where it is, if you see what I mean. Its, its, err, I’ve got some…

MIKE: So do you see it one day coming out of St Paul’s?

STEVE: Well it could possibly, it could well do. I mean it wouldn’t go far, it just needs Eastfield Park of maybe something like that, I don’t know. It, it, that, that’s way off. But there is a point where because of the responsibility of sticking around and organising the event for the board they have to look at it and think, you know, we’ve been, if, if they were told that it was unsafe to continue but they went on with it and then somebody got hurt they would’ve of acted irresponsibly. So there’s, there’s a huge responsibly on that side of it by carrying, carrying on with it so we’ve already started looking at things, tweaks and things for next year but I mean you must have been and been in those moments when its like that and um, it just goes, on and on and um, it’s not really…

MIKE: It’s really tight.

STEVE: Yeah. It’s not…

MIKE: It’s like Sardines.

STEVE: It’s not that pleasant to be in is it and it’s um, even worst when you’re busy and you’re trying to get somewhere. But um, so at some point you’re have to think well you know, if, if more people are going to keep coming, there’s going to be a point when it’s too popular and what do you do, you cant charge to get in for 10,000 people who are effected by Carnival where it is aren’t going to be too pleased obviously I wont charge them but, I don’t know, Bristol people aren’t they keen on paying for things are they, (laughter) um, so that’s sort of what’s in the back of our minds, or the Boards minds rather, but you know the future is, you know, and also if, every time you get a little bit bigger, its coasting a little bit more money. So err, so we kept Portland Square going until 10 O’clock this year instead of shutting it down after the precession but then we had to keep security on that area on longer and the road closures on longer, then we had to put some band, entertainment on there. So we had to pay for the entertainment on stage at the end of the night, see, so yes, keeping it on to 10 O’clock is a really cool idea and also people, people like sitting on the grass they like the festival type experience but that probably costs extra amount of £1000 more than the previous year to do it that way. Um, yeah.

MIKE: Ok, ok so, we covered a bit about the background of the Carnival and err…

STEVE: Yep.

MIKE: What it costs and that manpower that it takes to actually go into Carnival…

STEVE: Yeah.

MIKE: So I mean, um, what do you see, how do you see like BME err, um sets of community or organisations like St Paul’s Carnival office, how do you see that in the future with all the red tape and that? Do you think it has got another 40, did you say 40 years of this?

STEVE: 45 years next year, yeah.

MIKE: And that’s some…

STEVE: Oh yeah, um, part of the boards planning is for the 50th. So that’s good, that’s already in the back of um, Rebecca, the festival, so it’s in the back of her mind already. Its’ um, 20, I can’t do the maths, what are we in now? So, 12, 13, 14, 15, 2017, that would be 50th years old. That’s quite a phenomenal thing really. Um, but what it will look like and where it will be, I don’t know the, the, it’s survived this long so it should continue touchwood.

MIKE: So hopefully…

STEVE: (Laughter).

MIKE: Hopefully, you’re be there another 50 years.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s the idea. It might not be quite what it is today but you know, we might all be hover on a hover horse by then, who knows in 50 years time (laughter). All that stuff they promised us at school that never come through. Um, and there’s, you know, there’s, there’s enough community support behind it and also from council and the police and you know, the people who can say yes or no really who support the event and love the events so, you know, apart from, yeah, it has to continue because it’s a unique event.

MIKE: Ok. I want; I want to thank you for your time Steve.

STEVE: That’s fine; I’ll put a cheque in the post.

MIKE: Yeah. Do you have anything else you can say to add to it?

STEVE: No.

MIKE: You don’t have nothing to say?

STEVE: No, it’s Friday.

MIKE: Do you know anyone else that’s what to do an interview?

STEVE: Um, you asked about Rebecca?

MIKE: Yeah, yeah.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah. Like I said, if you can e-mail it to me then I’ll e-mail, then she get that because I can’t really give out numbers so um.

MIKE: Ok, that’s cool, yeah.

STEVE: I’m sure she will.

MIKE: I’ll just send you the information.

STEVE: Yeah:

MIKE: Um, alright then, thanks for that Steve.

STEVE: I’ll have a copy of the book then that will give you a bit more um, background and the history and um…

MIKE: Ok.

STEVE: And how it all started, and all that.

MIKE: Thank you. Thank you very much, alright.

STEVE: Thanks.

END

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