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Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Friday, 28 May 2010 08:22 UK
Reading gets ready for May Bank Holiday carnival
by Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter

Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue service
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue took part in the procession in 2009 and decorated a fire engine

Reading Carnival is bringing sun, dance and steel bands to Berkshire this bank holiday.

It will be held on Monday, 31 May at Prospect Park in Reading and will involve a procession, stalls and musical performances.

The carnival started in 1977 as part of the Queens Silver Jubilee celebrations.

Now it has developed into a community event maintaining a Caribbean theme, including representatives from the West Indies.

The Bajan community and presence is strong because Reading's population of Bajans is the biggest anywhere in the world outside the island.

Reading is also twinned with Speightstown in Barbados.

Carnival count down

Carnival-goer in costume
Carnival-goers make costumes and dress up for the celebration

A Carnival Dance will be held at the Face Bar on Ambrose Place (off Chatham Street) on Saturday, 29 May 2010.

Music and entertainment will be provided by local performers such as Integrity Music Machine and Inspiration plus carnival costumes will be on display.

Tickets are available in advance for £7 from 079662327740 or on the night at the venue at £10.

On the day

The procession starts at 1230 and winds its way through the streets of West Reading until returning to the park at around 1530BST.

The route goes down Tilehurst road, Russell Street, Oxford Road, Grovelands Road, Water Road then back on to Tilehurst Road heading back to Prospect Park.

Activities in the park and on stage start at 1400BST and continue until 1900BST.

At the park, there will various artists performing on stage including Reading Afrobeats band Limpopo - which is named after the Limpopo River that crosses the border of Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Band member Tomson Chauke said that he chose this name to: "Signify people coming together to celebrate the rich diversity in Reading. The band includes people from different cultures and we come together to make great music."

Empress Nerisa who originally hails from Montserrat will be bringing her musical influences in her Reggae vocal performance and Reading's Soca performer David Brewster will be there to entertain the crowd just to name a few.

The costumes

Helen Thomas is the vice chairperson from the Grenada Association Reading.

She gets involved in costume making each year. She told BBC Radio Berkshire's Louise Chandler about her stand-out carnival memory in 2007 when she won carnival queen dressed as a bee.

"My brother had the theme of community and of course bees all hive together, so that was the idea behind the costume.

"Having to go in for the carnival queen, I was very nervous but very excited and I couldn't believe that I won.

Making the outfit

"We went through some sketches and went to the carnival workshops. From a small idea, from little sketches we ended up with the end product.

"We used a bit of furry material for the body of the bee. I then did a papier mache head and ping pong balls for the eyes. It is amazing what you can do.

"For the wings we used lightweight wire and bended it in shape and covered it with light netting.

The competition

"Everyone was really nervous. There was a lot of buzzing going around, but it was still a good atmosphere because everyone was saying good luck and we could see each other nervous.

"The atmosphere was really good. It wasn't fierce competition, everyone was just happy to be a part of it.

"I had to perform, dance and show off the costume to the audience to let them see the hard work that has gone into.

"I literally had to make use of the hall and dance around. It was a bit nerve wracking for me.

Winning the contest

"I couldn't believe it. I was happy, I was nervous. My family was cheering for me and everything. It was such an atmosphere and I've never won anything like that be it was like, oh my gosh. I was really pleased."

Helen then led the procession of floats through Reading.

"That was good," she says. "It was like, 'oh look at me, we did it we won".

"I loved going round the streets. I loved the procession because it gives everyone the idea of what carnival is about."

Helen is a keen carnival-goer and says it's just a great family day out.

"It's a once a year thing," she says. "There's not many events like this in Reading. It gives everyone a chance to be creative.

"Just come for the day, take kids and get them involved. It's a whole family day and not geared to any person in particular. It's a Reading thing, a community thing."

Artists on the day will include:

Reading Carnival
Reading Carnival started in 1977

Limpopo, Empress Nerisa, Soca performer David Brewster, TJ 4 Fingaz, Nerica Henderson & Urban Pulse, Lutenants, David Brewster, Rottweiler (Asher Jeremiah), Freestyle King, Yaz Alexander and Tenza.

Listen to BBC Radio Berkshire's Louise Chandler on Sunday, 30 May from 2100BST for a preview of all the carnival events.

Louise will be broadcasting live from the event on Monday, 31 May, from 1100.

She will be in the procession and at park bringing you all the fun from the day.

Louise says: "Carnival is fun. It's good to see the community come together. I'll be there on the day so come down, say hello and get involved."

For more information go to the Reading Carnival Website

For more information call 01189 390 395 or Email Reading Carnival

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