Carnival time to brighten up the city

RAIN, wind, hail – so far summer has chucked everything but a good old-fashioned sunny day at us.

But don’t worry, for on Sunday the city centre is guaranteed to be bathed in a dazzling tropical glow as the first Edinburgh Festival Carnival rolls into town in a blaze of samba drums, exotic costumes, marching girls and Latin rhythm.

A stunning spectacle of music, dance and colourful costume brought to the heart of the city centre from all around the world will kick off the start of Edinburgh’s packed 2012 summer festival season. And best of all, it’s free.

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Around 30,000 spectators are expected to join in the carnival fun, which stretches from locations within Princes Street Gardens, along the busy shopping street itself into Rose Street and Castle Street

Performers – including the traditional New Orleans Brass Band and the lavish Junkanoo Commandos, a Bahamas dance troupe whose fantastically over-the-top outfits have to be seen to be believed – will entertain the crowds, moving in a circuit around a pre-planned route which means audiences don’t have to leave their spot to enjoy every element of the special day.

As well as music and entertainment from more than 20 international and local acts, there will be street performers, face painting for the little ones and huge Notting Hill-style puppets.

Throw in live jazz and blues at the nearby Grassmarket Sunday Market, and the day really will go with a swing.

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The Edinburgh Festival Carnival replaces the long-time favourite family day, the Cavalcade, which used to set the scene for the Festival with a procession made up of Fringe and International Festival ­entertainers.

But city chiefs wanted to highlight Edinburgh’s status as the world’s leading festival city much earlier in the summer and with the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival – Britain’s biggest jazz festival of its kind – ready to kick off tomorrow, the timing was perfect to create a new carnival ­extravaganza.

Sunday’s carnival fun has been produced by the Jazz and Blues Festival and begins at 2pm.

It stretches from the garden, with seating on a first-come, first-served basis for around 2000 at the Ross Bandstand. There will be ten other spots around the park for crowds to gather. And in Princes Street, a further ten locations have been identified for entertainers and ­spectators.

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Entertainers, some of who have travelled from halfway across the globe, will perform at each spot before moving on to the next.

Rose Street will be given over to lively street acts, with mime artists, jugglers, music and trick cyclists providing the entertainment from 1pm until 4pm.

Castle Street – between Rose Street and Princes Street – has been branded ‘Children’s Zone’ for the afternoon, with stories, puppet shows, facepainting, funfair rides and science fun and games from the Science Festival Bicycle Busk team.

And get your dancing shoes on if you’re in the Frederick Street’s ‘Dance Zone’, with hip-hop dance moves from city based all-female crew Ready Ready Sauce, Zumba workshops and performances, and Powerhooping – hula hoops with a twist.

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The fun even stretches to Hanover Street with more street entertainment and fun fair rides.

It will all come to a sensational climax at 4pm with a grand Samba finale at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, with music from five groups and scores of dancers.

The event means there will be some road closures – parts of Hanover Street, Frederick Street and Castle Street are affected and a stretch at The Mound to Market Street will also be closed to traffic. But event organisers say they hope the road disruption will be overshadowed by a fabulous day of Carnival fun. Roger Spence, producer of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, says the colourful day of music, dance and entertainment will launch the city’s festival season in style.

He adds: “The Edinburgh Festival Carnival brings a truly international flavour to the city centre, and also features great local musicians and performers here in Scotland. It will be a colourful and fitting way to welcome the 2012 summer festival season.”

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The carnival is free thanks to funding from the city council. City festivals and events champion Steve Cardownie says: “The Festivals Carnival promises to evoke all the fun and family-friendliness of its forerunner, the Festivals Cavalcade, but with added exciting features. The council was delighted to be able to facilitate this unmissable free event, which I know will be a huge hit with residents and visitors alike.

“It will be fantastic to see Princes Street and Princes Street Gardens come alive with all the vibrant costumes and different musical styles of the various bands perform.”

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A global gathering

GET set to tap those feet, shimmy your hips and move to the rhythm of some of the world’s most infectious sounds when carnival bands from around the globe descend on the city.

So who’s who?

THE STOOGES: Direct from New Orleans, a city steeped in jazz tradition, The Stooges are one of the city’s premier brass bands. Their sound is a modern mash of jazz, R ‘n’ B and hip hop.

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ALLYSSON VELEZ DRUMMERS AND DANCERS: All the way from Brazil bringing a traditional blend of Samba sounds and performance.

BANDAKADABRA: Italian brass band that combines living Balkan and Mediterranean sounds.

PINK PUFFERS: Another Italian brass band with a funky jazz style.

JUNKANOO COMMANDOS: Brightly attired Carnival dance troupe from The Bahamas.

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JAZZ COMBO BOX: This funky band from France are known for their creative harmonies and improvisation skills.

CRITERION BRASS BAND: All the way from . . . Edinburgh. The city’s own New Orleans-style Parade Band.

BEAT N’ BLOW: Pop and rock hits on the move from this German street brass band.

FORTH BRIDGES ACCORDION BAND: Marching to the beat, just four years old but with more than 50 members creating a powerful sound.

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BELMONT FREE TOWN PERFORMING ARTS: A bright carnival dance group from Trinidad and Tobago with sharp marching moves.

EDINBURGH SAMBA SCHOOL: Percussion and dance group that brings a traditional flavour of Brazil to many Scottish events.

GWANAVAL: From Martinique, bringing a French-Caribbean style of percussion.

MOVEMA: Fusing Latin American, Asian and Caribbean dancing styles.

BATALA: Reggae and Samba drumming group from Liverpool.

EDINBURGH CHINESE COMMUNITY: Ever-popular and fascinating Dragon and Lion dance.

PULSE OF THE PLACE: Talented young drummers prove great samba doesn’t have to come from Brazil – they are from Leith.

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