Carnival 2019 may be the last year to see Carnival Babies on the road. But in celebration of the junior band’s tenth anniversary, bandleader Lisa Mollineau intends to highlight and recap the band’s colourful history.
With the theme Celebration Time – Cheers to Carnival Babies Over the Years, Mollineau and wire-bender and designer, Roger Hicks, developed new designs based on each theme from 2010 to 2018, and a new one called Celebration, for this year. “He his bending backwards to make it possible for Carnival Babies to come out this year. So I must say a heartfelt thank you to him.”
Catering for approximately 400 masqueraders, the all-inclusive band, based at Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook, provides water, juices, snacks, fruit, and a meal for the children. She said the band has sponsors who donate goods, which she appreciates because those items cost money, but it is very expensive to produce the band itself.
In fact, she said for the past two years she produced two sections “out of pocket” to ensure children were not disappointed. She also continued because children’s mas combines both her passions – working with children and creating art.
“As simple as it is, it’s a tremendous cost. It breaks my heart but financially it has been tearing us down. To produce a band at this level is really hard if we cannot maintain proper financial sponsorship.”
But how did she get involved with creating mas in the first place?
Mollineau was a seamstress who sewed everyday clothes and exclusive wear like pageant gowns.
One day, a friend who worked with Peter Minshall asked her to do some work with the band, so she did. She subsequently worked with several adult bands including Legends and Barbarosa.
“I played mas all over the world, in hot weather, really bitter cold weather, I enjoyed it all, from section mas, to individual to queen of carnival (not here though). But not in my wildest dreams I thought I would have branched off in Carnival as a career.”
Eventually she got into children’s mas with Rosalind Gabriel, detailing costume prototypes. “In children's (Carnival) is where my heart opened up, where I saw the creativity of mas, when I worked with Rosalind Gabriel for 11 years. Whereas with the adults it’s beads and feathers or, as we call it, a two-piece and fries – a bra, panty, and the few frills.”
She said everyone loves feathers but designers are being “unreasonable” with their use. “You don’t see feathers under the sea. You don’t see them in a flower garden. They are portraying things and it has no relation to feathers. Come on, get creative!”
While she was with Gabriel, she was given the opportunity to be a bandleader alongside Dune Ali to bring out the children’s band, Carnival Players which they designed for and led for nine years.
However, she felt she needed to go further and do more. She also wanted autonomy and to take responsibility for and face the consequences of her own decisions rather than that of others and vice versa.
“My friends said, ‘Lis, you’re getting older, you’re doing so much work on the international market and here. Why not do something for yourself, that your name would be recognised for?’ So, in 2010, I took the opportunity to bring my own band based on my experience producing costumes all over the world, which we called Carnival Babies.
“It was a bold and brave move. It’s a task. It’s a tall order. It’s a real challenge to do it but I always thank the Lord for the ability and creativity to sew, create and make things happen.”
Mollineau designed for herself or worked with other designers, produced all her prototypes and helped during mas production. She said the work is not about making costumes for the sake of it but the costumes have to have a meaning behind them. She believes the skilled aspect of Carnival – such as wirebending and copper working – is a dying art that people do not appreciate. She said people are losing the creativity and pride in their work, and instead concentrate on making money.
She said the Carnival Babies costumes portray the selected themes and add a learning aspect to the mas. Every year the band conducted a mas workshop for children from police youth groups and children’s homes. The children, ages five to 18 were taught the art of costume making and given the opportunity to play mas with the band through sponsorships.
In addition, each band member is educated about the theme. For example, this year one section is called Feather Fantasy. Members were taught about the types of feathers used, the birds the feathers came from, and the countries from which the birds originated. At the workshop the children were taught about processing the feathers, from plucking to dyeing, as well as how they are used in craft and costumes.
Recalling all the work involved in producing the band, Mollineau thanked all the friends who encouraged her to strike out on her own, as well as helped her with the band over the years, including Gabriel and Ali. Her thanks extended to the band’s gold sponsor, Nestle which had been with her from the first year, as well as Chee Mooke Bakery.
She also expressed her appreciation for the support of the late Stephen Derek who was her mentor. “He was the one who really pushed me and gave me the drive to do it for myself. He said I had the ability and should go for it.”