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Going global for carnival

IN THE GROOVE: Members of Manchester’s Global Grooves group take to the streets

A GROUP of artists from the north west are taking their talents to the smiling coast of West Africa in a cultural exchange that will enrich the festival of The Gambia and provide a wealth of new skills to performers in the UK.

Tameside-based Global Grooves is an emerging community benefit society that has been established since 2003. They are committed to delivering and inspiring Carnival activity far and wide and seek to unite communities through art from their studios in Mossley.

To strengthen their cross-cultural links, a team of 39 artists, choreographers, costume makers, drummers, teachers have flown out to The Gambia to join the Kartong Festival in what is hoped to be a longstanding union.

Their aim is to share expertise and help the festival organisers maximise the potential of the event and its appeal to tourists. Global Grooves CEO, Leon Patel said: “Though based out of Tameside in Greater Manchester, our work takes us all over the world, learning and sharing our knowledge and skills of international carnival customs.

“We are looking forward to seeing the carnival performance bloom at the Kartong Festival and hope that the carnival spirit will engage even more people and help the event to increase its community relevance.”

Originated by the current senior management team, Leon Patel, Holly Prest and Eraldo Marques, Global Grooves have made significant impacts on carnival locally, nationally and globally. The group have already demonstrated that festivals can successfully bring communities together.

They launched the Mossley Light Festival in 2016 and the winter event draws thousands of people to the streets of Mossley to see some fantastic lantern displays and celebrate the area’s
creativity.

Adding to that success, their recent initiative, Creating Carnival, has taken students and artists to countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil and Cuba to promote and exchange experience. “Rather than just reading about something and trying to recreate it, we prefer the deeper process of going to the location to see what we can give back to those communities and that is the notion that the Gambia trip was borne from,” said Holly.

The Kartong Festival is an arts and cultural event that has been held in the southern coastal village since 2004. The village, which is close to the Senegalese border, has a population of around 5,500. Most homes have no running water, electricity is sparse and there is no internet connection throughout.

The Global Grooves team has pledged to pull off an impressive carnival-style lantern parade with more than 150 villagers involved as lantern makers, puppeteers, drummers and dancers. In return, the team is hoping to learn more about Gambian and West African traditions including kankourang costume making, music and dance.

Crowdfunding has helped to raise more than £1,000 in donations for the organisers of the Kartong Festival in order to support a year-round programme of activities in the area. Other supporters of the annual event include Sabar drummer, Modou Diouf and Sona Jobarteh, the first female kora – the West African harp instrument usually only played by men – virtuoso to come from a prestigious West African Griot family.

“We have ambitious plans for future festivals and believe that sharing our culture, traditions and lifestyle can play a crucial role in bringing more tourism to Gambia. The festival has the potential to become the number one attraction for visitors to The Gambia and can serve as a vehicle for bringing money into local communities rather than the European businesses that dominate tourism,” added Leon.

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