Sunshine Arts brings carnival to the community

Ray Mahabir founder of Sunshine international arts

Sunshine Arts has a lot to celebrate. It is 10 years since their first appearance at Notting Hill Carnival and five years since it opened the café at Loughborough Junction.

Founder Ray Mahabir (above) is keen to involve more of the local community. Sunshine International Arts (SiA) is probably better known across the country than it is in Brixton, he says.

Born in Trinidad, Ray says carnival and costume is part of his DNA. He learned his skills while working and living in Trinidad.

“I came here in 1998. I was a fashion designer in Trinidad and carnival was a part-time hobby. I learned the trade while working and came here on vacation. I came as a volunteer and got roped into another carnival group. And that was it.

“I’d live here six months and have six months in Trinidad. Two summers in one year.”

Sunshine Arts International children in carnival costume

SiA opened its doors in 2001 and keeps on growing. It has expanded into the café, two more arches for rehearsal, theatre and yoga and the carnival studio

“I like the idea of working with families. The centre welcomes everyone, little kids, teenagers, parents. Aged two till 90. It’s a space local people can come and make costumes.

“Maybe it springs from my work with and love for carnivals. But I’m interested in art work which is interactive and organic – where members of the community can get involved, watch the artist at work and learn new skills. I hope this space is accessible to everyone, it’s here for the community to use and be creative in.”

Ray is keen to engage the wider local community and wants everyone to join in the SiA’s Mas Camp, held at the CAFE (Carnival Arts for Everyone). He is thrilled that Sunshine International Arts will continue to be a National Portfolio Organisation of the Arts Council England from 1018 – 2022.

It is a melting pot of creative flair. Learn feather flowing; wire bending; headdress building; and costume decoration. The term Mas Camp originates from Trinidad and Tobago and describes centres of production for carnival costumes and places to meet other friendly carnival people.

Carnival Arts at Loughborough Junction's C.A.F.E
Carnival Arts at Loughborough Junction’s C.A.F.E

Dates for Mas Camp this Summer are:

  • Wednesday 12 – Sunday 16 July
  • Wednesday 19 – Saturday 22 July
  • Tuesday 25 – Thursday 27 July
  • Wednesday 2 – Sunday 6 August
  • Wednesday 9 – Sunday 13 August
  • Wednesday 16 – Friday 25 August

Contact to register an interest in getting involved with this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. See website for more details.