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Carnival is coming home

CARNIVAL QUEENS: (from left) Runner-up Nicky Griffiths, new queen Lexi Kimberley Maye and runner-up Simone Cunningham

CARNIVAL’S COMING home to its spiritual birthplace after more than a decade.

After an 11-year absence, the city’s legendary Caribbean Carnival returns to its original Handsworth home in Handsworth Park on Sunday, August 7th.

Organisers are keeping their fingers crossed that the event’s historic return to Handsworth - the first time since 1994 - will be a triumphant one for both the local community and the whole of Birmingham.

And the excitement is reaching fever pitch now that the Birmingham carnival organisers have chosen their new Queen for the extravaganza, Lexi Kimberley Maye who will lead the dazzling four-hour street parade.

Tony Sealey, a director of Birmingham Carnival, said: “This is make or break time for Carnival and we want a peaceful, fun day for everyone. How this goes will determine future events, so this is crucial.”

Organisers hope the extravaganza will be a dry run for next year which coincides with the Olympic Jamaican track and field team making the city their pre-Games training base. And 2012 will also mark Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence.

BUDGET

However, economic cut backs have meant that the city council’s carnival subsidy has been axed by almost 40 per cent to £108,000. In 2009 the budget was £178,000.

But preparations for the event have been carried along on a wave of enthusiasm. Veteran costume maker Professor Black, who has been creating his sequinned masterpieces for 37 years, has been hard at work producing 300 costumes for the big day.

And he is delighted with the choice of new Queen Lexi, a 22-year-old call centre operator, who he says has the stamina, the personality and the looks to lead the day.

Queen Lexi, who takes over the crown from Sancia Parkinson, crowned carnival Queen back in 2009 at the traditionally biannual event, said: “I’m so thrilled. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. I entered two years ago and didn’t even get placed.”

This year’s runners ups are Nicky Griffiths and Simone Cunningham.

Lexi will be at the head of the circular procession which will leave Holyhead Road at 1pm and proceed along Soho Road, Rookery Road, Oxhill Road, Church Lane, Hamstead Road, Villa Road and Soho Road leading into Handsworth Park via Grove Lane.

Up to 1,000 people are expected to be involved in the procession, which will include 15 costume floats. One of these will belong to the Black Pound Society, which has encouraged the local African Caribbean community to spend their money with Black businesses during carnival weekend. Many more revellers are expected to line the route.

There will be a rolling road closure plan in place on the day, with the parade estimated to arrive in Handsworth Park around 4.30pm where the party will continue until 8.30pm.

An exclusion zone will be put in place on the day containing roads bordering Rookery Road, Oxhill Road, Church Lane, Hamstead Road, Villa Road and Soho Road from 9am and 11am to 8.30pm, with Soho Road being closed only while the procession passes along to Handsworth Park.

The park itself will host entertainment from 12 noon with a main stage, three satellite sound systems, three beer tents and more than 60 stalls.

Ava Johnson, one of the organisers, added: “There is great excitement in the community now Carnival is coming back to its roots. People feel it is back where it belongs.”

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