Butetown Carnival

Butetown Carnival, as we know it today has had an incredibly colourful history. Born in the Butetown Docklands in the mid-1960s, it quickly grew to become a focal point for Black culture in south Wales.

Over the decades it's been many things to many people - but one thing has remained constant throughout - a sense of community and belonging.

In 2014 after a 16-year absence, it returned to the streets of Cardiff and is once again a focal point for the Butetown community.

One of its organisers, Keith Murrell has been attending carnival since he was a small boy, long before the docklands were developed and he's seen it all - from the early Mardis Gras to the Caribbean floats in the Lord Mayor's Parade, as well as sneaking off to Notting Hill to watch the famous carnival in London.

Keith Murrell
Keith Murrell

Keith's been involved since 1982 and is a firm believer that carnival is for everyone regardless of race or skin colour. It’s this community ethos that makes Butetown Carnival so special.

"Carnival can be all things to all people."

Keith Murrell

For decades the carnival’s spiritual home has been at Canal Park in the heart of Butetown, however Keith has ambitions to make the carnival more accessible and reclaim some of its lost heritage by returning the carnival back to the waterfront area where it all began.

Butetown Carnival

This year's carnival will still hopefully go ahead later this year, albeit in a slightly different format due to the Coronavirus pandemic and social distancing measures, but it promises to be just as vibrant and spectacular as any other year.

The team behind Butetown Carnival are still waiting for confirmation on exact dates and times but we'll update you with all the latest news as soon as we get it.

The theme for 2020 is change. Recent upheavals have given local artists more time to reflect and opportunities to do things slightly differently. In doing so, they have created some incredible costumes.

Carnival characters

This year's characters and costumes have developed alongside beautiful narratives, reflecting the turbulent times in which we now find ourselves.

Carnival characters
Carnival characters

Local artist, Flow Maugran has been making carnival  costumes for the last three years and has been creating a narrative around this year's theme meeting the other artists involved and trying to join the dots together to form a complex narrative across many characters - including an Imp, Blue Devil, the Winds of Change, Lockdown Lucy, Bee Keepers, Billie Mar and many more…

“Everyone has a Blue Devil inside them so it’s about transformation.”

Flow Maugran

You’ll notice the costumes are also larger this year too – a deliberate choice, for people to see the parade from further away in case of social distancing measures.

Each character one has its own quirks and personality traits - some are good, some are playful, and some are just plain evil but there's plenty of symbolism sewn into each one.

Blue Devils
Blue Devils

Flow believes nature is showing us the way, teaching us that we don't know everything. So, this year's theme tackles transformation and adaptation, an incredibly powerful message during these uncertain times.

Videographer, Tim Short has also been busy documenting the entire process, capturing the spirit of the key characters and artists involved for a special digital version of the carnival taking place on Bank Holiday Monday which we’ll be sharing on our social channels and will be available from 10am at www.aman.cymru.

The carnival and us

For the last six years we’ve been supporting Butetown Carnival with planning, staging, and offering technical support, especially around the field events over the August Bank Holiday weekend.

This has always been one of the highlights of the year for our tech team who enjoy soaking up the music and atmosphere of carnival.

Last year we collaborated with the carnival to deliver a series of community banquets with Butetown Arts and Cultural Association (BACA) leading on the curation of the music and performances.

This has been an incredible journey for everyone involved and many of the people we now call friends initially performed at our community banquets before going on to perform in our St David’s Day community showcase event, Your Wales in our Donald Gordon Theatre.

Drumming and dancing at the Your Wales community event in March 2020.
Drumming and dancing at the Your Wales community event in March 2020.

The tech team have also helped to deliver our carnival workshops as part of our free family activities, bringing people together to create art and carnival decorations and share in the magic of carnival.

Traditionally the carnival starts here, at Wales Millennium Centre, along with lots of our staff who never need much encouragement to get involved, dress up and join in with the procession.

Our home is in the heart of Butetown so the carnival is a natural collaboration between us and some of the local community and we firmly believe in supporting carnival and celebrating its rich and colourful culture which we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.