10:20am Monday 7th July 2014
By Pete Hughes
AFRICAN dancers and rock, reggae and marching bands arrived in East Oxford yesterday for the Cowley Road Carnival.
Last year more than 35,000 people joined in the carnival and this year tens of thousands of people enjoyed the party in the sunshine.
More than 730 primary school children, brass band players, religious and political groups danced and chanted in a parade from The Plain roundabout to St Mary and St John Church, from 2pm to 3pm.
Leading the way were children from Pegasus Youth Theatre and their life-like Mini robot puppet inspired by Oxford’s Mini plant – the carnival’s main sponsor.
At their head was nine-year-old Elsie Tyrrell who had said she had never led a procession before and was “very excited”.
As she joined the parade with her students, Pegasus Theatre manager Yasmin Sidhwa said: “It is an amazing experience, so many young people walking, being watched and enjoying all the fun. The theme this year is faces of Oxford, and we are the face of Oxford.”
Al-Amin grocery store manager Nazim Uddin and his assistant Samad Ali made a killing selling tropical jack fruit.
Mr Uddin, 31, said: “It’s been fantastic – a great day.
“The carnival brings everyone together. Oxford is a multicultural city anyway, but this shows off different culture, different vibes, different music _ things you wouldn’t normally see.”
More than 35 street traders helped fund the carnival organising committee Cowley Road Works, which raised a total of £100,000 to ensure the carnival went ahead.
The road was closed from 8am and bands performed at the Corridor club, the City Arms, The Cape of Good Hope and other stages from midday.
George Hopkinson, 28, travelled from London to see the carnival for the first time with friends from Oxford.
Mr Hopkinson, who works in marketing, said: “It’s so nice to see loads of new stuff you wouldn’t normally see and everyone get together.”
Oxford City Council donated £30,000 to the carnival.
Council leader Bob Price, who watched the parade with wife Joanna and daughter Isabelle, 13, said: “The quality of the parade and all the bands is the best it has ever been.
“We always get good weather by not doing it the same weekend as Glastonbury.”
Among the parade’s dancers was 19-year-old student Sandra Dipate, from Oxford, who was inspired by last year’s carnival to organise her own All Around Africa troupe.
Miss Dipate, originally from Botswana, said: “The carnival is all about embracing cultural diversity, but last year I realised there weren’t actually that many groups from Africa so I made a dance group.”
Performers from the East Oxford Culturevators project made polar bear heads to wear in the parade and carried a life-size polar bear model, inspired by Oxford author Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights trilogy.
Helen Jacobs, 35, said: “We wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
Procession organiser Anya Fox said: “I love the carnival because there are so many kinds of people.
“It’s all about the heart and soul of this area, more than any other show I do.”
The carnival was first held in 2001 when it attracted just 500 people.
It was cancelled in 2006 and in 2011 was held in South Park.
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