The Notting Hill Carnival will once again take the coveted trophy for the best performing international group during the Seychelles Carnival 2015 home with them, and the reaction of the spectators told the story that it was well deserved. Brazil come in narrowly behind in the judges’ vote as first runner-up, while Cambodia claimed third spot in their first-ever appearance in the islands. Notting Hill was clearly a crowd favorite and had come to the Seychelles with a delegation at least twice the size of previous years giving an insight into the great variety this UK based carnival group stands for.
The prizes were handed to the winning teams by a number of dignitaries present at the Kiddies Carnival and subsequent Grand Finale and included Seychelles President James Alix Michel and the Mauritius’ Deputy Prime Minister who also holds the tourism portfolio. They were all greeted with roaring applause when they addressed the crowd, and President Michel arguably got the loudest cheers when he addressed his people in Creole.
His unexpected visit to the Freedom Square showground was the icing on the cake for a record crowd of local spectators who had come to see the carnival heavyweights perform one last act before the curtain fell on the 2015 carnival of carnivals, the Carnaval International de Victoria, last evening.
Earlier in the afternoon, a number of schools entered the Kiddies Carnival competition, and the children performed with a passion second to none, bringing the early crowds to their feet and cheering the kids on.
The launch of this Sunday addition last year to the carnival weekend provided a fun day out for families, and being held this year for the second time showed that the organizers had found a niche to cater to families with children. The food and drink stalls did roaring business across the back of the showground, while in front of the big stage, spectators crowded and jostled to catch a close-up glimpse of the various schools when they were performing.
Also present at the time were the four Miss World contestants from the Seychelles, Tanzania, Australia, and the United States who, after the children’s performances, interacted with the kids but not before giving this correspondent one of their trademark smiles.
The prize giving for the best performing schools, and later on for the best performing groups and floats, proved to be a highlight of the afternoon show and attracted loud cheers and cat whistles from the crowd, especially when the local favorites walked off the stage with a trophy in their hands and a check in their pocket with some prize money.
Minister St. Ange was accompanied by the two Principal Secretaries for Tourism and for Culture and the CEO of the Tourism Board, all of whom went on stage soon after they had their pictures taken wearing some of the hat creations the schools had put together, where their presence gave not just a moral boost to the children but where they also handed over the winners’ trophies and prize money to those chosen by the panel of judges who had earlier on assessed the performances of the 9 participating schools. One of the key challenges was to produce costumes and paraphernalia from recycled materials to promote a more sustainable and eco-friendlier lifestyle on the islands.
While unlike last year no date was announced for the next carnival of carnivals, aka the Carnaval International de Victoria, the turnout of the locals on Saturday on the streets of the capital and on Sunday at the Freedom Square show grounds evidenced that the people of the Seychelles have embraced the carnival idea and left out no opportunity to party all weekend long.
A massive logistical challenge has come to an end when the last food stalls closed and the last of the revelers listening and dancing to the island’s favorite tunes went home in the wee hours.
Royals from Ghana and Swaziland joined the 29 foreign delegations participating in the parade and events, and over 30 local floats had to be accommodated and marshaled through the city, along with the arrivals and departures of hundreds of people coordinated. If one thing stood out for this correspondent, among the many impressive experiences once again made, it was the increase in African participation. Kenya was present and represented by a group of Masai from the Bomas of Kenya as were Swaziland, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, South Africa, Madagascar, Reunion Island, and Mauritius, the latter for the first time with an official delegation and indications that at the next edition they may take part as a co-host similar to what Reunion Island has now done for the past five years. Perhaps Uganda and Rwanda will also warm up to the carnival in the future, because the performance of the Ndere Troupe from Kampala or of the Rwandan national dancers would thrill the crowds and send cheers through the roof.
This report, however, would not be complete without mentioning the staff of the Seychelles Tourism Board. From the moment of leaving the plane and entering the arrivals section of the airport, the staff was omnipresent and at hand to sort out itinerary changes for media representatives, arrange for interviews, and generally perform minor and major miracles. There was total agreement among the “old timers” attending the annual carnival that once again they went above and beyond the call of duty and deserve a prize and trophy of their own.
Many journalists, while on the island, will no doubt take advantage of being in the islands and cover other aspects of life in the Seychelles, or so it is hoped. For this correspondent, now that the carnival is over, it will be another opportunity to visit the Seychelles’ Tourism Academy and see how the re-development is going, do a follow-up story on the “Affordable Seychelles,” aka “Seychelles’ Secrets,” and enjoy another visit to Praslin and La Digue. The focus will be to meet with local entrepreneurs who have invested in B&Bs, chalets, and small hotels, with their stories will be told over the coming days.