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One Rhythm Carnival

Over the winter of 2018–19 there was much supping of hot beverages in the Jackdaw Works, which led to a certain amount of ruminating. In between the beverage breaks progress was made with the Welsh coach and Scottish coach, both inspired by Rowland Emett's cartoon 'spoofing' the nationalisation of British railways in 1947 – and the same cartoon inspired an Irish loco and a Northumbrian-themed wagon.

Over seventy years later the country has become considerably more multicultural. The management of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway recall enjoying some of the music and dance festivals organised by Leicester City Council, such as the One Rhythm Dance Festival back in October 2008, which successfully brought together performers from many different nationalities.

Participants in Leicester's One Rhythm Dance Festival, 2008.
Top to bottom: South African dancers; Indian classical dancer; Brazilian carnival dancers

So the ideas started having ideas. Could there be a whole series of 'carnival floats' making their way along Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's tracks, each celebrating a different musical tradition? The list quickly grew to rather epic proportions:

  • Brazilian carnival – with bloco drummers and elaborately costumed dancers
  • Caribbean carnival with dub reggae
  • Columbian cumbia
  • Mexican mariachi
  • Louisiana cajuns
  • 1980s–90s Zimbabwian tribute bands playing chimurenga and jit music; and/or tribute bands playing pre-soukous Congolese music
  • Australian didjeridoo and rhythm sticks
  • Kon Tiki-style raft with Polynesian singers
  • Javanese/Balinese puppet show with gamelan
  • Indian sitar, tabla, tanpura and druphad singer
  • Japanese tea house in 'rock garden' with shakuhacki player (complete with basket on head?)
  • Chinese hermit by waterfall with go q'in
The manager of Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway's Jackdaw Works said, 'Well that's rather a lot of wagons you're going to need. Hope there's a budget to build them.' And, frankly, there isn't.

And heaven alone knows how all the necessary musicians might be brought to north-west Norfolk. Nigh on thirty years ago a whole colony of cajun-playing musicians infested Derby, and it seems The Bearcat Cajun Playboys are still strutting their stuff, with a repertoire of two-steps and such like. In Spring 1985 the management was on a business trip in America and drove through Church Point, Louisiana, on a Sunday morning when the famous Lee Laverne radio show featuring the best cajun musicians playing live was being broadcast – but back then had no idea what cajun music was (he was only a mere 30 years old… ) so carried on driving. And has only been to America once since, and got no further south than Pennsylvania!

Sadly few if any of the 1980s Zimbabwean musicians made it through the AIDS-era so tribute bands would be the only way to re-experience the infectious energy of the likes of The Bhundu Boys or The Real Sounds of Harare. And the management still recall one evening around 1988 and being in the audience when the latter group played in the unlikely setting of the main assembly room at Christ's Hospital public school near Horsham – yes, it was verging on the surreal. But as the classic Senegalese Afro-Cuban band, Orchestra Baobab, are still performing (even though the band was formed in 1970) then just maybe they could headline. Well, everyone can dream…

    Update: Just come across the Congalese band Jupiter & Okwess who get at least halfway to that lost Zimbabwean energy.
So, who knows? Just maybe by 2020 Whittlecreek and Eaton St Torpid Heritage Railway will have its own One Rhythm Carnival.

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Images and text copyright Bob Trubshaw 2018–2021