By Stephen Spark
Thursday 31 January 2013 : 9:00 GMT
It’s probably a bit late to think about entering this year’s Carnaval International de Victoria, but take heart, the 2014 event is only a dozen months away! Participation is free and the atmosphere friendly and relaxed. For anyone used to the stop-start progress of a mas band in grid-locked Notting Hill, the well-ordered flow along the streets of Victoria is a marvel.
Victoria’s streets are built on the scale of London, not Rio de Janeiro, so groups must have no more than 50 people and vehicles should be a maximum of 4m high, 7m long and 3m wide. The climate is definitely more Caribbean than British, however, and even on the shorter route introduced last year at least one masquerader collapsed from heat exhaustion, so drinking plenty of fluids – preferably not all alcoholic – is essential. Groups are expected to provide clear descriptions of their entries and their themes in advance so that the announcers and media can give an accurate commentary – a requirement that some other carnivals would do well to copy.
The starting-point is Roche Caiman, on the southern outskirts of Victoria, from where the carnivalists head along Bois de Rose Avenue and across the roundabout into Francis Rachel Street. Here, in front of the National Library, groups have a maximum of two minutes to display to the VIPs – look out for President Michel of Seychelles in his characteristic short-sleeved shirt. Masqueraders will also want to put on a good show (for no more than two minutes) in front of the Supreme Court, where the assessors will be waiting to pass judgement on each group. The court is better known for passing sentence on Somali pirates who have plagued the seas in this part of the world for several years.
From here the procession passes the Clock Tower and continues north along Albert Street before turning right into Palm Street. There’s another opportunity to show off those well-rehearsed moves by the Orion Mall (two minutes, again), before turning right into 5th June Avenue, named after the date in 1977 when Prime Minister Albert René ousted President James Mancham in a coup d’etat. Most of the groups will turn off to the right (before the Twa Zwaza – Three Birds – monument) into Freedom Square. This rectangular grassy space is a good place to wind down with a snack and a drink from one of the stalls or to sample soca, sega, zouk and other types of music being played by the trucks as darkness falls.