Along with St Paul’s and Notting Hill there's another great afro caribbean community carnival, and its up in Manchester. These images were made while I was still at college just half an hour down the road from Manc and all things mad.

As punk morphed into two tone while I was still at school and The Clash made White Man in Hammersmith Palais, reggae was a natural progression in listening pleasure before rave in all its mental loved up glory took over everything. Consequently carnival in Manchester was a logical event destination.

The Hac was in the same town and we'd taken in that too. There was even a drug store in Mosside that actually sold drugs, and the Robin Hood pub was just legendary. It’s still a wonder we didn’t get robbed or stabbed.
Probably one of the best gigs ever was at Manchester’s International 2. Trouble Funk really, really dropped the go-go bomb hard. The bouncer outside warned me to take care of my rucksack on my back because the local kids would work in twos.

One would distract you by talking to you asking for money, while the other would come up behind and use a razor on your rucksack to rob you. So should have taken my camera to that gig, but at that time photography was either arty student conceptual, or Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

I hadn’t yet learnt that the thing that makes photography unique and valuable is what the person behind the camera brings to it. In the meantime check out the haircuts and the hip hop battle...




The first organized, outside, Notting Hill Carnival event, took place in 1966, the year I was born, but its roots extend much farther back in cultural history.

Year by year it grew bigger and more organized, without local authority permission, surviving many attempts to forcibly shut it down without success until 1987, when a more conciliatory approach was adopted for the first time after confrontation and rioting on grounds of racial discrimination.

1989 became known as the Police Carnival due to the large numbers of the force deployed to control it.
In search of broadening our horizons as teenagers some years previously we’d got in the back of an open top pick up and lay in bed on a mattress covered by a tarpaulin as we made the journey up the motorway from Somerset to the big smoke of London town. On arrival we sat up in the back as we drove through the city and smoked spliffs, waving to the onlookers on the city streets.

Friends from the West Country lived in a squat in Ladroke Crescent, where life was, quite frankly, a romantic eye opener. It wasn’t an everyday thing that you got hang out with people like Gene October from Chelsea. He’d supported the Clash and had hung out with all our youthful punk idols for real. His mates went on to form Generation X with Billy Idol.

People were coming in from Heathrow with blocks of hash sown into their sheepskins. The place was full of beautiful wasted hippie girls. You walked down the street and there was reggae and blue beat drifting from speakers outside cafes and record shops.

Rastas, hippies and punks just hung out together. The squat parties were eye opening psychedelic cultural melting pots were that lasted for days, if you were so inclined. Notting Hill and Portobello Road then was a place and a race of people you could fall in love with.

After college I moved there for a bit to work for a music photographer who made his name as photographer to the Rolling Stones and Hendrix. He was shooting production advertising by then, for all the big ad agencies, for two and half grand a day. Just one of my roles was to make the art directors great lunches.

Not being a fan of advertising, I didn’t last long, but the job taught me a lot. After year or so he sacked me for leaving a heater on low by mistake in the kitchen over Carnival weekend. It was only a couple of months after my friends had been on the phone from Castlemorton while I watching it on TV news in the studio, saying come! Why aren’t you here???

These days Carnival is legal, licensed, and over a million people turn up



It was the first big self-motivated project during the second year of my degree in photography at art college. Being pretty much local to Glastonbury I wrote to Michael to ask if I could come and photograph the festival.

He said come down and say hi. So one weekend shortly after that me and my friend Lucy jumped in her old green Beetle and drove over to do just that. He said yes and gave me a job on the site crew for 20 quid a day plus food. What a touch. Michael always remembers Lucy, who is now picture editor at Glamour magazine, and he always teases me about not getting her to be my girlfriend.

I first went to the festival in 1987 when I jumped the fence with some friends. Over 25 years ago now, 1989 was the first time I documented the event that I have followed pretty much every year since. It was an introduction to a culture and a community living a mobile lifestyle that I've loved ever since.
One the hot topics of conversation that year was the arrival of the Police on site for the very first time. Until that year the event had existed successfully without any Police on site since 1971. That’s 18 years as a self-policing social experiment in alternative living, being and entertainment, clearly a precedent they couldn’t allow to continue.
I went back to college only just long enough to develop and contact the film. Then I made a sketchbook of cut out contacts for the crit, there was way too much material to consider making prints. As soon as I could I hitched back down to Treworgey Tree Fayre in Cornwall, as that was where everyone I’d met at Glasto was heading next. That was a whole different story.

I took a car door back with me on the train that we’d painted when it was part of a site vehicle. Somehow it had got ripped off at some point during the proceedings. The car it came from had a site-customized gearbox with three gear levers. One rod direct into the box for first and second. One rod direct into the box for third and fourth. One for reverse.

Perhaps the door came off during the stock car races we had afterwards in the empty fields. Some grinning hippie in a battered cap containing a greasy afro of curls called Fat Freddie had driven up behind me in a 4x4 and pushed me at speed into a hedge. The colourful abstract painting looked like Matisse’s dancing figures so it seemed to be an appropriate momento.

Coincidentally that year rave also arrived at Glastonbury in a big way with several large sound systems setting up on site. I danced to deep house at one of them through the night, the dawn and way into the next day making all kinds of friends. It was outside a big double decker that was meant to be a café up in the Green Fields. The speakers were hidden under trestle serving tables covered red gingham tablecloths so it looked just like a normal café from the outside. That year was also the year that my Dad lost our family home in the Thatcher inspired recession.