Freedom in 1834 told by the Fordes and 45 performers

Bacchanal in d’ Centennial Park uses all the Caribbean Arts to tell Carnival story

By Stephen Weir - Caribbean Camera
Do you have 45-minutes to give your all to the traditions of Carnival? This Sunday afternoon 45 actors, stick fighters, stilt walkers and Calypso stars will come Dingolay in the Centennial Park and the whole city is invited watch.
At 3pm Ol' Time Carnival, Bacchanal in d' Plantation Yard! takes over the northwest corner of the park located at Markham and Ellesmere Ave in Scarborough. This is a free, rain or shine event that organizers describe as “being very family friendly!”
“ Ol’ Time Carnival came about after I met a young woman who told me she was going to be playing Mas in the Toronto’s Carnival Parade. I asked her if she knew why we play Mas. She said she didn’t know, which made me mad,” show co-producer and writer Jacky Forde told the Caribbean Camera in a late night mas camp interview earlier this week. “But then we (pointing at her husband Clarence) got to thinking, why don’t we tell the truth, the real story of how carnival came to be and what it all means.”
The couple, both well-known costume designers, set about to use all of the carnival arts to take its audience back to 19th century Trinidad. It was the summer of 1834 and on August 1st slavery was officially abolished. It was the night before emancipation and things were afoot in the Gonsales Coco Plantation.”
“ This is my family story. It was my great great uncle who gathered all the children into the tenement yard on August 1st and told them what happened,” said Clarence. “ Those children grew old and told the story to their children and so on down to now. I based the Ol' Time Carnival storyline based on what my uncles said!”
“It is 4 o’clock in the morning, the last hours of slavery. The story opens with Baby Doll, looking to find the father of her child,” he continued. “ The male slaves were often thrown into the unlit huts and expected to breed. The women didn’t know who they had been with and the men didn’t know if they were even fathers.”
The Fordes Talk To Stephen Weir

Baby Doll was a popular figure in the early Carnival parades. The masquerader portrays a gaily-dressed doll decked out in a frilled dress and bonnet. In her arms she carries a doll that symbolizes an illegitimate baby. She stops male passers-by and accuses them of being the baby's father.
“ We don’t want to give it all away, but Baby Doll’s search brings out the Moko Jumbies, Stick fighters, dancers and two of the best Canadian Calypso singers,” said Jackie Forde, who co-wrote the script with Michelle Parson. Ms. Parson also plays Thelma the washerwoman and is the opening scene MC.
This is the third summer that the Cajuca Mas Arts Producers has told the story of Carnival’s first year. The telling of the story has been refined and the theatre has now reached WOW levels!
There are 45 performers including two Calypso singers Connector (Joel Davis) and King Cosmos (Henry Gomez). “ They will be singing some of the original songs of 1834, based on the lyrics that our uncle’s uncle told us. You don’t forget. They will be singing with Hummingbird Drummers, lead by Keith Pascall “
Excited about what is happening on Sunday and a repeat appearance on the evening of July 31st at the base of the CN Tower. The interview with the Camera took place in the Revellers Mas Camp among the props for the two coming out-door presentations.
A backdrop for the coming Toronto Caribbean Carnival’s Gala was being readied for pick-up. “We aren’t performing at the Gala, but we will have a presence there – going to let people know about all about our costumes and the coming show,” said Jackie Forde.
Back drop for Carnival story
Before heading back to work on the set, the pair had two bits of advice for Camera readers. “ Bring a lawn chair. Wear sunscreen. Don’t forget, it is all free. It is part of the city’s amazing Arts in the Parks summer program.”
Don’t worry when the show is over because it isn’t really over. The couple is mulling over some offers to take the show on the road. And, of course, they are already thinking about how the story will grow in 2019.


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