Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Harriot's amazing Carnival costumes for children


Susan Harriot working on one of her creations.

Donstan Bonn


Donstan Bonn

TWENTY-TWO years ago Susan "Marion" Harriot walked into the Eccles Village Anglican school with a burning idea to form a children’s mas band.

Several creations, trophies and accolades later and the passion to produce children’s costumes has once more led to her designs being in the finals of the National Carnival Bands Association (NCBA) Junior National competition.

Sitting in her mas camp under the home of her 67-year-old mother Noreen Mills in Whiteland, three generations of the family were together to create mas.

Harriot's daughter, Colleen, who was second in the NCBA's Junior National competition back in 2001 stuck sequins on her six-year-old daughters’ individual costume for the same event.

Harriot's mother, Noreen Mills, was assigned to covering shoes and chest pieces.

Her sister Patsy Mills-Gaynor sat under a bright light and barely raised her head as she worked on a costume while one of the section leaders left the mas camp with papers and instructions from Harriot.

To the music of calypsonian Sparrow in the background, Harriot, 50, recalled that it was over two decades ago that she spoke to the principal of Eccles Village primary to have the school participate in the national carnival competition.

When he realized she was serious about the move, he gave his full support.

This led to the band "Carnival is" which included sections Pan, Tourists, Heat and Maracas Bay.

The section "After Christmas", Mills added, was the "parang section" which was done in green and red.

At that time the children used the money they saved from "Junior Corp" to pay for their $60 - $75 costumes.

Having parents pay a small sum for costumes is a feat Harriot still attempts to preserve.

Working 15 hours shifts alongside her wire-bending brother Patrick Mills, this year the band produced "Gems of the Caribbean", portraying mas in the countries along the archipelago including Crop Over in Barbados, Jab Jab in Grenada and Bacchanal from Jamaica. Other sections highlight natural wonders in some of the countries including Kaieteur Falls in Guyana and beaches from the 365 that surround the island of Antigua.

From the band, Legèn Julian was selected a finalist in the queen's section of the NCBA Junior Nationals and Denzil Jennings who won first prize in this year's Red Cross Junior Kings category was also selected a finalist in the NCBA's junior competition.

Weeks ago, the band also won first place in the medium band section, best school band, the Junior King title and most original band at Guaracara Park, Marabella.

But while Harriot's dream is to have one of her grandchildren collect first prize in a national title, the mother of four said one of her greatest joys was back in 2007 when her son won the Junior King prize at Red Cross. It is a competition she described as the crème de la crème of junior carnival.

"To win at this competition, you feel as though you won the world."

She said that even winning a special prize at this competition shows that, as a mas-maker, you have potential.

Although some of her pictures and published keepsakes of her accomplishments were destroyed by water, Harriot shared with the Express the pictures from newspapers and magazine covers that remained. She easily called out names of sections of bands from years gone by.

Her mother input also added to the memories.

And even as her asthmatic condition tried to take a toll on her, Harriot's desire to create the best production possible was not daunted.

But her love is still met with other limitations.

Mills said that sponsorship has always been a challenge. Over the years she had to depend on the generosity of neighbours who provide water and other soft drinks for the children. This year a businessman in the area provided part sponsorship to the band.

Also, she said, the size of the band, as she headed into a competition, depended on the parents’ willingness to have their children available for mas on the given day. Harriot said if parents had parties they wanted to attend the day before the competition, chances are their children would not participate in the mas.

But she pushes on.

And when Carnival is over, Harriot is on to more designing. This time bonnets for Easter. She is also heavily involved in Best Village Competition where she is also bringing in the trophies.