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From since its inception over 40 years ago, the Luton International carnival has been the largest one day carnival in Europe
Performers in the street parade reflected traditional English cultural groups such as Morris Dancers Boy Scouts, Boys Brigade, Girls’ Guide and other community groups. Music to support the troupes was supplied by brass bands.
Although Luton had long been a multicultural society, the Caribbean communities were slow to associate themselves with Carnival. It was felt that this was partly due to the fact that they were not encouraged to participate. As time went on, members of the Afro Caribbean ethnic groups brought a new dimension to the Carnival. They brought intricate costume designs, vibrant colours as well as rhythmic performers. Carnival is about togetherness and the expression of culture.
The above was the springboard which led in 1994, the St Kitts, Nevis and Friends (SKNAF) carnival group to take part for the first time in the Luton International Carnival. The group’s first mas band was a Clown Troupe comprising of around thirty members under the leadership of Mr Cyril Ible. This troupe won the top prizes for costumes, performance and originality. Winning the competition led to the group being invited to participate in social and carnival activities throughout the country. Every year since 1994 the St Kitts, Nevis and Friends carnival group has participated in the Luton International Carnival.
It was ten years earlier in 1984 when the late George Richards with other friends from St Kitts and Nevis came together to form the St Kitts, Nevis and Friends Association. The main objectives of the association were to provide support and information for the citizens of St Kitts, Nevis and other friends of the Caribbean diaspora. The Association started by holding Saturday tutorial classes in English, Maths and other key subjects, provided support to the elderly and those who were hospitalised as well as, held social functions within the community to promote cohesion and foster community spirit among the people of the Caribbean who resided in the Luton and surrounding areas.
The activities of the Association grew into its involvement with the Luton International Carnival. Carnival had already been a key pastime and annual event for those who migrated from the Caribbean and it was felt that this was an area in which the Association can come together not just for the benefit of the members of the Association but to share their skills in costume design and construction.
The SKNAF carnival group has been led by Mrs Margaret Matthew a long time and ardent supporter of the Luton International Carnival. She has led the group to many awards and trophies for its design and performances in Luton and other Carnivals around the Country.
St Kitts, Nevis and Friends carnival group continues to be an active participant in the Luton International Carnival.
Discover more about St Kitts, Nevis & Friends on the Carnival Archive.