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It’s no secret that Carnivals are addictive, they provide a yearly opportunity for creative and artistic people to express themselves and compete, they introduce the possibility to generate revenue for governments and business owners, they provide nations with an opportunity to celebrate their national identity and they are an annual opportunity for the everyday man and woman whose labour keeps the wheels of their countries economy turning, to cut loose for a few days, forget work and celebrate their existence over several days.

Carnivals bring people together and each Carnival provides the certainty of enjoyment, and somehow perfectly balances the uncertainty of how that enjoyment will come to pass and exactly what form it will take. I often say at the beginning of each carnival I go to….

“I don’t know what’s going to happen……..but I know I’m going to enjoy it!”

However Carnivals historically have changed over time, some have died and been reborn, revised and rebranded or simply grown in size at an unprecedented rate.

As a result of this many Carnivals are blighted with conflict between the growth of the festival, and the desire to preserve it’s form, meaning and identity, this can cause a lot of friction between the organisations and groups that are all necessary in order for a Carnival to take place.

In order to identify the causes of these conflicts we have categorised three sizes and stages a Carnival may go through and the changes that may have occurred as a result of those changes.

The growth and evolution of a Carnival is often quite fluid, but we hope that by attempting to separate the types of Carnivals into identifiable groups it may reveal the fundamental causes of the conflict that often occurs between individuals who are involved within the organisation of a Carnival.


Local/Street Carnival

Local or Street Carnivals are the smallest of all Carnivals, and most large Carnivals in existence today have grown organically from a Carnival of this size.

The sizes of these Carnivals can range from a single street or block up to a neighbourhood

Participants are usually composed of locals, and any of the contributions required for it to take place are voluntarily provided by members of the community that the Carnival will be attended by and who have skills or talents that they can contribute.

As a result of it’s size and the close knit community that both create and enjoy the carnival in equal measure these Carnivals offer a lot of fun, cost the least to attend and often have absolutely zero trouble. The close knit community and the need to celebrate ensure that the environment will be trouble free and give visitors who participate the most rewarding interactions with locals and local culture.

Visitors to these Carnivals often come from nearby towns or boroughs and whilst the Carnival will have been assembled with little or no money it often presents opportunities for small business owners in the community to make money by providing goods and services to the revellers.

In post colonial locations that have Carnivals that are connected to religous dates this may also generate resistance with religious people within the community who fear that the Carnival Season may become more popular than the religion itself.



Carnivals at this level often occur when a street Carnival that has been successful for a number of years and produced positive results for a number of years, grows in size to encompass a larger area.

These Carnivals can sometimes be created artificially or grown by the involvement of a private interest, local council or organisation and it’s participants now bring together everyone within a wider area.

Carnivals at this level are a little more organised, and there will often be better coordination and organisation with regards to the small businesses that are serving the participants and visitors during the festival and the events that surround the Festival.

Borough Carnivals will attract visitors from nearby boroughs if they are successful and can often become so notorious that they begin to attract people from across the country.

Essential Contributions to the Carnival will often come from groups that have formed within the area that may take the form of logistical organisation, performances, music, stage creation, lighting, scaffolding, engineering and costume design among others.

Due to the increased size of the Carnival, money will often need to be generated in order to act as an incentive for organisers and leaders of these groups to undertake the increased workload necessary for an up-scaled participation of their group and/or their contribution to the Carnival.

An example of this can be found in Brazil, the inhabitants of City blocks, or Blocos design and sell T-shirts to individuals who wish to become a part of their parade and this generates revenue that goes back to the Bloco.

Conflict can occur at this stage between organisers of the Carnival groups, and the public sector including governments and local councils.

Carnival organisers will often observe the transition of their culturally rich and intimate celebration into an event that is drawing attention and business from across the country that begin to exert an influence over the Carnival.

Carnival organisers who will have experienced the community based Carnival and it’s voluntary contributions from that community will appreciate the growth of their carnival whilst simultaneously seeking to preserve the integrity and meaning of the carnival. Additional issues may occur due to the influence of Businesses upon the traditional format of the Carnival and an unspoken expectation that they should work harder in order to meet the needs of the larger Carnival for little or no remuneration, and this often creates problems. many band leaders respond by turning their masquerade band into a business themselves due to little or no support from the Government or Council. In addition to this it may create unhealthy competition between Carnival groups who would have been quite willing to help and collaborate with other Carnival groups for the common good of a local street Carnival, but now due to the requirement of making money and their need to charge the revellers, in order for their group to be sustainable, they may become unwilling to cooperate or support other carnival groups if there is nothing in it for them. This may negatively impact the Carnival as a whole as it requires the interaction of many different groups working in concert in order to be a success.

(This spirit of cooperation and inclusiveness and the lack of this compeitive attitude is one of the aspects of a local street Carnival that makes them so attractive to outsiders).


National Carnival

National Carnivals often evolve from their smaller cousins (See above) once they grow in size and are recognised internationally. National Carnivals will have governmental influence and are the most likely to attract large groups of International visitors and the possibility of investors and business interests.

Bands and groups at this level will often not be able to compete and survive without turning what they do into a business.

Carnival organisers, and Community leaders, whose motivation for sacrificing their personal time for the Carnival will be derived from a personal incentive rooted in their Community and local culture.

Many will often see changes to the Carnival as an increased danger of the Festival becoming a soulless event that is limited and influenced by money interests and governmental control.

At this level a National Carnival will become a product that increasingly draws Tourists who are attracted to the Festivities and the Cultural experience that accompanies it, but may not have thorough knowledge of the culture itself.

The potential for a positive effect on a nations economy is at it’s highest when a Carnival reaches this level.

Common conflicts occur due a desire for scalability, security, control and measuring the money generated from the Carnival.

As with all successful businesses, measurement and control is necessary in order for it to flourish. However these requirements are diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Street Carnival that the festival will have grown from. And it will also threaten to undermine what has made the Carnival attractive to the hundreds and thousands of people who were not initially a part of the community that started it.

Common issues occur between those who want Carnival to change due to the opportunities it presents and those who wish to preserve the socially and culturally driven spirit of the Carnival that has attracted visitors and participants in the first place.

The highest compliment that you can pay to an individuals culture is to accept, love and embrace it, however this is only a compliment insomuch as it does not change or disrupt the culture or alter the expression of it.

Once a National Carnival begins to make the transition from being a Carnival that is recognised internationally as a national festival, into a Carnival that begins to attract a consistantly large number of international visitors it now becomes an International Carnival.

At this level the ability for a carnival to have a positive effect on a nations economy is maximised, this is due to it’s ability to attract visitors from abroad, facilitate economic transactions and the ability to place businesses, companies and organisations in view of thousands of people and create a positive association between themselves and a highly enjoyable Festival that has international recognition and reach.

However this also increases the likelihood of the festival losing it’s anchor to it’s cultural meaning and history as money now becomes an influencing voice, which in-turn creates an increased possibility of exploitation of the creative and professional contributions that make the carnival possible.



In closing it seems as though the growing pains a Carnival experiences occur due to the conflicting priorities of those who wish to preserve it’s meaning, it’s creativity and it’s social value, and those who wish to utilise Carnival as a form of revenue generation while both of these are necessary.

Thus far the only country that has achieved this balance is Brazil. Particularly the Carnival of Rio de Janeiro, this years forecast for Brazils 2018 Carnival stated that 1.5 million tourists will travel to Brazil to join 5 million residents and spend 3.5 billion reals over 5 days (Which equates to just over 1 Billion Pounds over 5 days).


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