The Isle of Wight Mardi Gras, held in Ryde every last Saturday in June, is the company’s flagship event and showcases the very best of children and young people’s carnival experience through learning, creating and performance. We work closely with schools and colleges in the development of the event and the processes which contribute to it.
Formerly known as The Arts Parade (2003 to 2012) the procession takes inspiration from New Orleans Mardi Gras fused with Latin and Caribbean carnivals. Did you know that Mardi Gras means ‘fat Tuesday’ in French and that the word Carnevale comes from the Latin meaning ‘goodbye to meat’? Both refer to the feasting and fasting associated with the Catholic tradition of Lent, celebrated in February in many countries around the world. Our parade is led by Rex, King of Carnival, who distributes Mardi Gras beads to the crowds. A new Rex is chosen each year, the title and role presented to a worthy contributor, at carnivals or behind the scenes, to the arts, community engagement and work with young people.
The Mardi Gras parade has an overarching theme which is developed through a pictorial narrative and portrayed on the streets through carnival. The theme is chosen to fit comfortably within the national curriculum and topical areas of study, often in line with National celebrations or Anniversaries As an example, in 2015 we celebrated Magna Carta 800 in association with The Houses of Parliament Historic Anniversaries programme. Research and learning about the theme underpins the design of each costume section, contributed to by the young people themselves and made in creative workshops led by teachers, parents and volunteers.
Over 25 schools and youth organisations take part every year, alongside samba bands and other arts organisations with some visiting carnival groups.