Downpours send carnival float-makers undercover
Heavy showers yesterday kept the colourful carnival floats from entering the capital as planned and participants are hoping the bad weather forecast for today will not ruin the celebration they have been waiting for all year.
The spell of torrential rain and hail over the past couple of days saw float-makers scurry for shelter to the depleted St Elmo fortification in Valletta, which houses stores for some 10 floats.
There they wrapped their floats in plastic to protect them from the unforgiving natural elements.
Parts of the floats are constructed and painted in the stores but the whole thing comes together outside the fort because the stores are not big enough to hold the entire structure.
“You cannot take the floats in and out of the stores just like you would do to a garaged car in bad weather,” Jason Busuttil, whose float – called Brits, featuring John Lennon, Queen Elizabeth II, Pink Floyd and Freddie Mercury – cost about €10,000.
“We have been putting the floats together since Sunday but we were badly affected by the rain over the past couple of days. When the floats, made of papier-mâché, get wet you cannot move them as you’d end up with a mushy mess. So we have to wait for them to dry and fix other damage in the meantime.
“Our main concern is the hydraulic system on the inside of the float. Sometimes, we say a carnival float is nicer on the inside because of the elaborate mechanics,” added Mr Busuttil, president of the Carnival Participants Association.
He said a decision still had to be made whether the floats will be taken to Floriana today. Sunday is the most important day for the organisers. In the meantime, they will be repairing the damage.
The issue of storage has bothered participants for years and, last November, the Malta Council for Culture and the Arts announced that the planning authority had granted a permit for the construction of a carnival village at Corradino. It will be composed of 21 workshops that are expected to be completed in time for next year’s carnival.
While maintaining the association’s position that it would have preferred a site closer to Valletta, Mr Busuttil said it fully supported the project.
“There is a problem of distance and also concern of having no shelter close by (Valletta) where we can store our floats if it starts to rain but, at least, we get a large enough space to work all year round.”
Mr Busuttil dismissed the idea of holding carnival later in the year, in nicer weather.
“We agree carnival should take place in February like most of the other European countries.
“All we wish for are adequate hangars where we can store the floats if it rains.”
Paul Curmi, known better as Pawlu l-Pampalun, agreed that carnival celebrations should be held in February.
The 82-year-old was yesterday buzzing around his St Elmo workshop working on his and Christopher Caruana’s float.
“We do suffer in the rain but we cannot change carnival dates. When we did take part in the summer carnival, my dancers, donning thick costumes, could not stand the heat,” he said, expressing his disappointment at the bad weather but hoping it would be kinder over the weekend.
No political satire
Carnival float builders took a step back from injecting political satire in their work because of the general election, despite the go-ahead of both political parties last year.
Culture Minister Mario de Marco said last year there was nothing that prevented political satire during carnival.
Along the years, a police notice banning satire on foreign political issues, issued in 1935, ended up being interpreted as prohibiting all political issues.
But Carnival Participants Association president Jason Busuttil said they were willing to give it a push for next year’s carnival celebrations.
Valletta carnival programme
9.30-11.30am: carnival dances programme and défilé at the Carnival Arena at the Granaries, Floriana.
11.30am: défilé from City Gate proceeding along Republic Street and St John’s Street, Valletta.
1.30pm: band and grotesque masks parade along Republic Street, Valletta, to the Granaries, Floriana.
2pm: carnival dancing competition at the Carnival Arena, Granaries, Floriana, followed by entrance of défilé.
6pm: carnival by night défilé in Valletta.
Noon: band and grotesque masks parade along Republic Street to the Granaries, Floriana.
1-5.30pm: grand carnival show at the Granaries, Floriana.
2.30pm: grand défilé in Valletta that will pass through Castille Place, Merchant to St John’s and Republic streets in Valletta to the Granaries, Floriana.
10.30am-1pm: carnival parade with band participation, children’s dancing groups and isolated masks in Valletta followed by a dance parade.
3-8.30pm: carnival dancing competitions at the Granaries followed by entrance of défilé of triumphal and company floats.
10.30am-1pm: carnival parade with band participation, children’s dancing groups and isolated masks in Valletta followed by dance parade.
6pm: grand finale in St Anne’s Street, Floriana, with the participation of both triumphal and company floats.