I took a trip to Mossley this week to get creative. If you ask most adults if they are creative they often say no whereas most children will say yes. Where does our creativity go between childhood and adulthood? Perhaps it doesn’t go at all we just temporarily misplace it. I went to find mine by volunteering for Cabasa Carnival Arts at Vale Mill as they made costumes for Juba do Leao’s ‘The Lion’s Mane’. Juba do Leao is a group of dancers and musicians who perform across the country inspired by the rhythms and vibrant dances of North-Eastern Brazil. Their new project ‘The Lion’s Mane’ is due to start in Cardiff in a few weeks time. When I arrived on a sunny Sunday the main room was full of drying costumes and two other volunteers were already there. They were students from Manchester Metropolitan University called Molly and Chloe and have travelled across Manchester from Wigan. Natalie who was cutting out costumes took time out to show us around the impressive space with loads of drums and costume in the store room. Natalie explained that Brazilian Carnival took its influence from African culture mixed with Brazilian culture and Cabasa gave it a twist so it wasn’t just a direct imitation but a celebration. They had once created huge flowers for dancers at one of their performances at the Tatton Flower show.
Emily the artist director of Cabasa Carnival Arts arrived and set us with our task to dye the under skirts for the costumes of the dancers. Carnival costumes can be big and colourful made with lots of different materials. The swing tops and underskirts would form the base and then more coloured material would be layered on top. We protected the floor and laid out tables which would be better for our backs as we dyed the cloth. I was at first worried that Molly and Chloe had experience with costumes as they were completing a embroidery course but I felt it was a fair swap of knowledge when I showed them that Gaffer tape didn’t need to be cut with scissors but could simply be ripped. This is after years of using it to stick things together.
Emily taught us how to mix the dyes and we created a light and dark aubergine colour. The plan was to paint the dye on the heavy cotton so that the very bottom edges were light and the skirts and tops went darker at the top. I must admit that the first time I lay my paint brush on the fabric I worried that I might make a mistake but soon I was sloshing dye about without a care in the world. Emily didn’t want a line in the fabric but a blend between the colours. As the material dried the line appeared but that was soon rectified by a second coat. As I splashed and sploshed (thank goodness we covered the floor and tables) I chatted with another volunteer Hayley who had helped on a previous project and tried to volunteer when she could. Hayley explained she was a singing teacher in Romiley and I tried to explain all the places I had volunteered so far throughout Tameside. Whenever I try to tell people I always forget something. Maybe I should have a list in my pocket.
I had a wonderful time helping out at the making day and I hope I get to see the finished costumes. It was just so easy to do and I learnt a lot. I had no experience in materials, dying and costumes but you didn’t need it. It was just so easy to help make something with a few bits of guidance. It is definitely a lot of fun and it will bring out a creative part of you that has been there all along just hiding. Each making day is different depending on where they are in the process of making, you just need clothes you don’t made getting messy and a wiliness to get stuck in.
If you would like to find out more about this and future projects you can go to www.cabassacarnivalarts.com