Masquerade past, present and Greener

Develop Your Creative Practice – An Arts Council funded project.

DYCP supports individuals who are cultural and creative practitioners and want to take time to focus on their creative development.

Simon’s DYCP project can be divided in to two, 1. Looking at Carnival from around the world and 2. Developing a Sustainable and recycling ethos through exploring making techniques.


10. Developing performance for costume

9. Acestral Spirits

a. African Mask V1

b. African Wax Print Costume

c. African Mask V2

d. Tattered Costume

8. Greener Carnival/Greener Festivals

7. Homemade biodegradable paints

6. Making your own glue

5. Flying Birds from recycling plastic milk bottles

4. Junkanoo – Sunflower Carnival costume

3. Making masks from plastic milk bottles

2. Midnight Robber

  1. Introduction

10. Developing performance for costume

Many African societies have a rich tradition of masquerades, which are plays, ceremonies, or dances by masked performers. Masquerades provide entertainment, define social roles, and communicate religious meaning. The masks used in such performances may be treasured as works of art. They are also important symbols of ancestors, spirits, or even the history and culture of whole peoples.

Show Film
  1. Movement for Red African King

2. Movement for Blue Krampus character

Movement for African King

Babatunde Babalola; A Nigerian Artist, teacher and Performer living in the UK, helped Simon to look at and to develop movement for costumes he made inspired by African culture. In our collaboration we looked at West Africa culture, Nigeria and African Mas.

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9. Ancestral Spirits & Masks

Interpreting the masks from the Chokwe (Zambia)

“In the context of ritual initiation, ancestral spirits may assume the form of masks to assist in trasmitting knowledge of this history down through the generations. These ancestral spirits are known as Makishi and may be seen as the masked dancers. They ‘rise up from the grave’ and are central to any study characterising the ritual art, history and ancient language of the Chokwe.

a. African Mask version 1

Made to measure headdress cap
Cutting out main shape
Where to put your face
Developing mask and pattern
Cardboard Mask with lights and ribbon
Painted design

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b. African wax print Costume

This costume was based on a ‘New Look Sewing Pattern 6876’ – Men’s scrubs using a cotton material with an African Wax Print pattern.

African wax prints, also known as Ankara and Dutch wax prints, are omnipresent and common materials for clothing in Africa, especially West Africa. They are industrially produced colourful cotton cloths with batik -inspired printing. One feature of these materials is the lack of difference in the colour intensity of the front and back sides. The wax fabric can be sorted into categories of quality due to the processes of manufacturing.

Normally, the fabrics are sold in lengths of 12 yards (11 m) as “full piece” or 6 yards (5.5 m) as “half piece”. The colors comply with local preferences of the customers. Typically, clothing for celebrations is made from this fabric.

c. African Mask version 2

Simon’s interpretation of a large African mask used in a ritual performances

The frame of the mask is made from split bamboo pole held together with gaffer tape and cable ties.

The frame is then covered with cotton material by sewing pieces together and sewing onto the frame. Facial features are also added.

The mask is painted using a biodegradable paint which is in development, the black paint had vegetable oil added to give it a slight sheen to the surface.

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d. The Tattered Costume

Tattered costume, based on traditional African dance and masquerade (tattered & Raffia), European Morris Men Tattered costume and Montserrat carnival costume.

Made with the help of Bernard the mannequin the costume was made by recycling nettings, a thick cotton material a bit like calico and a felt material from Milton Keynes Scrape store/resource centre.

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8. Greener Carnival/Greener Festivals

Greener Festival Ltd will have an advisory and mentorship, including recommendations and CO2 conversions / comparisons of key materials.

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7. Homemade biodegradable paints

How to make Paint for carnival & art projects for school and community workshops.

The key to making these resources work for you is approaching them with creativity and openness and using them as tools to suit your own purposes. They do not require artistic expertise just a sense of fun and enthusiasm.

Making your own Paint

Make your own paint from a few inexpensive ingredients that is safe for adults and children of all ages. In its most basic form, paint consists of color (the pigment) and the glue in which the pigment is suspended (the binder).

Pigments. Safer alternatives to the toxic compounds and heavy metals used to color conventional paint include natural pigments derived from plants, insects, iron oxides and minerals. These are usually in powder form at artists’ supply stores. Using natural pigments from plants, fruits, clays and spices means the colour will be more pastel shades and can suffer from fading due to aging and sun light.

Binders. Binders keep paint glued to a surface. The acrylic and vinyl binders in commercial paints are derived from the byproducts of refining crude oil. The binders in natural paints rely instead on materials such as starch (from flour), casein (the protein in milk) and linseed oil (from pressed flax seeds).

The hardest part of making paint is obtaining bright colours, especially if you work in carnival, at present Simon uses a basic base starch recipe as his binder to which he adds coloured  powered paints to, while still experimenting with plant and spice pigments to obtain deeper bright colours.

Powered paints dry with a powered surface but by adding to the base paint recipe below gives a stable tuff surface.

Many paints also contain ingredients that add texture and bulk (fillers), a thinner (the solvent) and other additives, such as biocides and drying catalysts.

Making a flour based paint


Water, Flour, salt, Clay and Wall filler

  1. Mix cold water and flour into a mixing bowl. Make the mixture with cold water. Pour 470 ml of water into a bowl. Combine it with about 450 g of flour and a similar amount of Salt, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

This mixture will create an inexpensive, non-toxic paint that can be used to give walls and other surfaces a matte finish.

Use milk instead of water if you require a more opaque and whiter finish

2. Boil 350 ml of water on the stove. Pour water into a large saucepan safe to be heated on a stove. Turn the heat on the stove up to high and wait for the water to boil.

3. Turn the heat down and stir the flour paste mixture into the boiling water. Lower the heat, stirring the mixture continually with a whisk or an electric mixer. The mixture should turn into a thick paste within 3 to 5 minutes. Once it becomes a paste, remove it from the heat.

Check the paste’s consistency to ensure that it is thick. If it seems runny, give it more cooking time.

4. Stir 470 ml of cold water into the paste. Use only cold water so the paste doesn’t thin out too much. Slowly pour it onto the paste, mixing the entire time. The water will thin the paste to a paint-like consistency as you stir.

Adding the water too quickly can thin the paste out more than you want.

5. Mix screened clay and powder filler in a separate bowl. In a mixing bowl, combine about 230 g of powered clay filler (I find Diatomaceous Earth ideal as it gives a smoother finish) with 110 g of a powder filler such as a DIY wall filler. These ingredients give the paint color and stability, preventing unsightly peeling and cracking on your walls.

Powerd clay can be ordered online or from hobby craft shops.

Diatomaceous Earth: Naturally occurring, made from the fossilized remains of aquatic organisms called diatoms. This food grade product is safe for human consumption.

Powder fillers are often available at home improvements stores and can also be purchased online.

6. Add the filler material to the paste. Slowly add the clay mixture to the paste, stirring it the entire time. Mix the ingredients together until the paste reaches the consistency you desire. You can then spread it over your paint surface with brushes like you would with any regular paint.

7. Pour drops of food coloring or pigments into the paint. Choose a paint color, then add until desired colour is achieved.

8. Use the paint and store the excess in a sealed container. Brush the paint over your painting surface, then wait for the paint to set. The paint will dry out in about 1 hour and cure within 24 hours. You may then wish to give your painting surface a second coating to make it look great.

Properly-stored paint should last 5 to 10 years.

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6. Making your own Glue

You can make your own glue from milk, just follow these simple steps.


Skim or semi skimmed milk

White Vinegar

Paper towels

Rubber band

2 Cups

Baking soda

  1. Combine ½ cup skim milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Mix ingredients together well in a small bowl, give the mixture 2 minutes to sit. The protein in the milk will clump together into small white lumps of curd. The liquid that remains is called whey. 

2. Make a strainer to strain the curds from the whey. Put a paper towel over the top of a cup with a large mouth. Push down the paper towel in the middle so that it caves in. Then take your rubber band and put it around the top of the cup and paper towel to hold your paper towel strainer in place.Choose a larger cup that you can pour the whole mixture of the curds and whey onto. Or pour the mixture onto the strainer, wait for it to strain and then pour on the rest.

3. Strain the curds from the whey. Carefully pour the curds and whey on top of the paper towel. The whey will drain into the cup while the curds will stay on the top of the paper towel.

Leave the curds and whey on the paper towel strainer for about 5 minutes to give it time to strain.

4. Place the curds left on the top of the paper towel between two dry paper towels. Scoop the curds off of the top of the strainer and onto two paper towels. Press down on the curds so that all of the liquid whey is squeezed out. You want to make sure that you get out all of the whey to make the glue.

5. Combine the curds with 2 teaspoons of water and 1 teaspoon baking soda. In another small bowl, add the curds, water, and baking soda. Stir the mixture together well. You will be able to hear the sound of bubbles popping if you listen closely because the reaction of the baking soda with the curds creates carbon dioxide.

If the mixture does not have the consistency of glue, add more water to the mixture by the teaspoon until it is the correct consistency.

6. Finished.

This glue works well on porous surfaces such as paper and cardboard

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5. Flying Birds from recycling plastic milk bottles

An installation of flying milk bottles – working with plastic got Simon thinking the wrongs and rights of using plastic in creativity.

Plastic Milk Bottles flying birds

1 or 2 Litre plastic milk bottles
Using a permanent pen mark out where to cut
Cut the milk bottle with scissors
Weight the Milk bottle with a flour mix
The Finished Milk bottle bird
Flying Bird Installation made up of 60+ Milk bottles

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4. Junkanoo – Sunflower costume

Junkanoo is a street parade with music, dance, and costumes of mixed African origin in many islands across the English speaking  Caribbean every Boxing Day (26 December) and New Year’s Day (1 January). These cultural parades are predominantly showcased in the Bahamas where the music is also mainstreamed.

The expression of Junkanoo is shown off in the costumes. The first set of costumes were masks made from flour paste and colorful crepe paper over the body. The costumes have now evolved to ecstatic works of art made from crepe paper that is carefully glued to fabric, wood or cardboard. The outfits consist of dresses or skirts with a show-stopping headpiece to tie the whole outfit together.

The festival may have originated several centuries ago, when enslaved descendants of Africans on plantations in The Bahamas celebrated holidays granted around Christmas time with dance, music, and costumes. After emancipation the tradition continued and junkanoo evolved from simple origins to a formal, organised parade with intricate costumes, themed music and official prizes within various categories.

The Sunflower


What does a sunflower symbolise? Sunflowers symbolise loyalty, adoration thanks to the myth of Clytie and Apollo. And, because of their association with the sun, sunflowers are well-known for being a happy flower.

Making a Sunflower Back-pack

This sunflower costume is mostly made from cardboard and papier Mache. The challenge was to make a backpack style costume with height developing construction techniques using limited materials.

Cardboard is a versatile and sustainable material, usually a single use material used for packaging, by recycling large cardboard boxes collected from large shops and industrial estates we give new life to paper products, if we reduce the amount of contamination applied (paints, tapes and plastic foil decoration) as much as possible the finished artworks can be recycled conventionally when not required anymore.

#Using a little bit of maths, science and a lot of creativity, cardboard has a lot of potential. I love working with cardboard as an environmentally friendly material, creating masks, carnival backpacks, large puppet heads, headdresses or large paper boats to float on water, you can even make this material water resistant by using biodegradable glues and paints for the British weather. Making carnival and community workshops greener.

Cardboard covered with copper foil
Yellow Wax Print

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3. Making masks from plastic milk bottles

A mask is an object normally worn on the face, typically for protection, disguise, performance, or entertainment. Masks have been used since antiquity for both ceremonial and practical purposes, as well as in the performing arts and for entertainment.

Here Simon is making African inspired masks by recycling single use plastic milk bottles

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2. The Midnight Robber

A Traditional Caribbean Carnival Character

This is Simon’s interpretation of the Midnight Robber under lockdown, it was commissioned by Northampton Carnival and EMCCAN (East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network) as part of their ‘Innovating Mas’ project supporting carnival artists from Nottingham, Derby, Leicester and Northampton Carnivals. It was a combination of this commission and work produced for ‘Carnival Network South’ for their conference ‘Towards a Greener Carnival’ that inspired Simon to update his knowledge and skills for the new world to research Masquerade past, present and Greener, develop street art for exhibition, performance, websites and social media. During lockdown Simon reflected on his creative needs and discovered that he has mislaid some skills: to create art of his choice, progress a theme through a series of developing ideas & techniques. By going back to basics looking at themes of African masks & Traditional carnival characters to create artworks, steps will be taken to rejuvenate and stimulate the creative process.

The Midnight Robber is one of the most beloved colourful traditional carnival characters. He is identified by his extravagant costumes and distinctive speech, called “Robber Talk” which has a boastful, mocking style. His costume is inspired by cowboy traditions, sporting an oversized hat on which a Skulls or a coffin is often superimposed, a flowing black cape painted with a skull and cross bones; black shirt and pantaloons and shoes or boots. He blows a whistle and carries a gun, sword or dagger and a wooden money box in the shape of a coffin. 

An example of a Midnight Robber Speech

‘Away down from the heightless region of the phantom graveyard came I,

The most impregnable, unconquerable and most adorable Prince of Crime.

Where I live the sun never shine,

The rain never fall,

Grass never grow,

And even the wind refuse to blow.

For I’ll bite a piece of the moon and shorten the season.

My tongue is Death and my voice is THUNDER

Now the voice of THUNDER has now been founded onto me

Sounds like SWEET music in my ear

Murder on my mind

And even the spirit of the great mystical power of the earth I’ve already crossed and slain

With any Mocking Pretender like you that come my way!’

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  1. Introduction

About Simon

Simon Tipping a self-employed artist based in Claydon, Banbury. Fine arts trained, established himself in Milton Keynes in 1985 after completing his Degree in Ceramic’s at Bristol, becoming a Ceramic sculptor & involving himself in the arts & community of the MK.

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In 2017 Simon establish Route Canal Arts, a not for profit arts company who believe in creative partnerships with a commitment to working with people through the arts to make a real difference to their lives. Route Canal Arts strive to deliver high quality art projects using sustainable and recycled resources through creative thinking to engage and inspire the people they work with.

Over the past 35 years Simon has worked regularly and extensively across schools and communities in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, London, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Somerset whether that is as a freelance artist, in partnership with other fellow artists and arts organisations or as Route Canal Arts.

In 1992 Simon became a member of the ‘Silbury group Artists’ a collaborative group of nationally known artists based at Westbury Farm Studios, Milton Keynes. This artist led group had an impressive record of exhibitions, international exchanges, residencies, educational & community projects providing artistic links with local & national organisations. From 1998 to 2004 Simon was the Chairman supporting a program of International Artist Symposiums and artists exchanges held at Westbury Farm studios as well as curating the 10th Anniversary Exhibition at The Milton Keynes Gallery in 2001 and ‘Memoirs of my travels’ the group’s first international exhibition, Kaunas, Lithuania.

In 2000 Simon embarked on a carnival training program with Interaction:MK, breaking away with four colleagues to form Festive Road CIC (creative Director/2005-16) after a trip to the Trinidad carnival. The company created & designed giant puppets, processional sculptures, costumes, masks, Mas bands, street events, parades & community projects using recycled materials. Simon has attended Viareggio and Venice carnivals, participated at the Rio carnival with Paul Davies ‘Embaixadores da Alegria’, Bei Jing, China with Ali Pretty’s kinetika and her Imagination Our Nation project, show cased the work of Festive Road at the Thames festival nighttime carnival, MK International arts festival and responsible for ‘Walking with Giants’ for Central Milton Keynes 2012-15.

He has a wealth of experience engaging the young and old in creative learning, making amazing art accessible and participatory using recycled materials.

About this project

Committed to the carnival arts Simon has worked hard to achieve a level of skill and knowledge that is matched by a clear commitment to working with people and passing on the skills. Simon wants to develop his knowledge & skills, to investigate in greater depth his own creative themes around traditional carnival costume, European culture, and African masks.

  1. Costumes made from cardboard & recycled materials, experiment with different methods of constructing from cardboard using maths & Science to produce strong, durable, colourful and weather resistant structures.
  • Create tradition and updated Masquerade costumes by recycling clothing and fabric materials from charity shops or resource centres.
  • Making masks using moulds and papier Mache. Making a negative mould – sculpt a positive image in clay, then cast image in plaster to form your negative mould from which you can make multiples from, this method produces a details and crisp mask. Use found positive items such as masks, cow horns, the human face to over lay the paper Mache, this form of making give you a base shape to build off. Papier-mâché is a composite material consisting of paper pieces or pulp, sometimes reinforced with textiles, bound with an adhesive, such as glue, starch, or wallpaper paste.
  • Recycling single use plastic bottles. Using one sort of plastic at a time on a project & only that plastic such as HDPE – High density Polyethylene (e.g., Detergents or milk bottles) they are light weight, durable and have longevity, they are also easy to manipulate, cut with scissors, colour with permanent markers and can be put straight into the recycling bin when not required anymore.
  • There is also an element of new technology & lights for costume so that it can be worn or displayed day or night.
  • Refine, research and develop making glues and paints using ingredients from the kitchen cupboard focusing on developing colour.
  • Ongoing research into traditional carnival costumes from the Caribbean, Africa & Europe, learn their history, connections and how they are made. With this knowledge Simon develops his own interpretations to create high quality carnival costume.

Inspired by:

  1. Trinidad traditional carnival characters (Midnight Robbers, Devils, The Book Man, Jab Jabs, Dragons, Moko Jumbies etc)
  2. The Caribbean Island of Montserrat and its carnival traditions
  3. Masquerade traditions from the coast of West Africa
  4. The Bahamas Junkanoo
  5. Olinda & Rio Carnival, Brazil
  6. Venice Carnival, Italy
  7. Viareggio Carnival, Italy
  8. Jack in the Green, Hastings
  9. Luton Carnival
  10. Aurillac International Street Festival
  11. Milton Keynes International Festival

A lifelong ethos for Simon is to explore and develop a sustainable way of using materials to create carnival costume, masks, headdresses, and large processional sculptures. Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the number of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector but not necessarily excluding plastic from his making practice. Simon is taking a practical look at developing methods in creativity using sustainable and biodegradable materials: Bamboo, Cardboard, Cotton, natural dyes, Paper, Rubber, Wheat, Wood. As well as recycling single use plastic to extend its life on a long term basis and educating the public about it’s life cycle.

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Simon Tipping – Freelance Artist

specialising in carnival arts, community lanterns, light installations, using sustainable & recycled materials.

Access to creative and cultural experiences


Simon Tipping – What has he done?

The Covid Midnight Robber

The Covid Midnight Robber – 60 St Giles Street

Brewing UP – An Olympic 2012 Inspire mark project with Festive Road CIC

Recycling a BMW MINI – A Cowley Road Carnival project

Post Cards from Brazil – 2014

Walking with Giants, Milton Keynes

African Giant for MK Melting pot

The Paper Boat Challenge

Whole School Carnivals – an example

Using sustainable materials in the Carnival Arts

Who is Route Canal Arts

Simon Tipping – What has he done?

Simon Tipping Director & Co Founder of Route Canal Arts CIC (2017-present) is based in Claydon, Banbury. Fine arts trained, he first established himself in Milton Keynes in 1985 after completing his Degree in Ceramic’s at Bristol, setting up as a self-employed Ceramic sculptor developing his own style of clay sculpture as well as involving himself in the arts & community of the MK.

In 1992 Simon became a member of the ‘Silbury group Artists’ a collaborative group of nationally known artists based at Westbury Farm Studios, Shenley Wood. This artist led group had an impressive record of exhibitions, international exchanges, residencies, educational & community projects providing artistic links to & with local & national organisations. From 1998 to 2004 Simon became Chairman supporting a program of International Artist Symposiums and artists exchanges held at Westbury Farm studios as well as curating the 10th Anniversary Exhibition at The Milton Keynes Gallery in 2001 and ‘Memoirs of my travels’ the group’s first international exhibition, Kaunas, Lithuania.

In 2000 Simon embarked on a training program & an annual set of Carnivals with Interaction:MK before breaking away with four carnival colleagues to form Festive Road CIC (creative Director/2005-2016) after a trip to the Trinidad carnival in 2005. The Milton Keynes Based company created & designed giant puppets, processional sculptures, costumes, masks, Mas bands, street events, parades & community projects. Simon loves carnival, having attended the Viareggio, Trinidad and Venice carnivals, participated at the Rio carnival with Paul Davies and his Embaixadores da Alegria, travelled to Bei Jing, China with Ali Pretty’s kinetika and her Imagination Our Nation project, as well as show casing the work of Festive Road at the Thames festival night time carnival & creating his own large-scale events such as ‘Walking with Giants’ for Central Milton Keynes.

Simon has a wealth of experience in engaging the young and the old in creative learning, making art accessible and participatory.

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 The Covid Midnight Robber

The Covid Midnight Robber commissioned by Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium and EMCCAN (East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network) A 2020 Lockdown project.

 “The Midnight Robber” a traditional “Bad Man” character in Trinidad Carnival who dresses in all black decorated with skulls. He is known for his long eloquent speeches as the Carnival griot or storyteller.

Simon Tipping is an outstanding UK carnival artist who has been working closely with Northampton Carnival and Emccan. He specialises in using natural materials and making excellent, environmentally friendly artistic creations. His costumes are amazing and have been part of the Emccan lockdown commissions, window displays and performances between lockdown. He has a long track record in carnival arts and is very well respected around the UK. He presented at the Greener Carnival Conference in March 2020 prior to the first lockdown, in Bristol.

Donna Fox, Director – EMCCAN

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The Covid Midnight Robber – 60 St Giles Street

Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium

60 St Giles Street, Northampton. Shop window display December 2020

Christmas is a time for making merry and in some parts of the Caribbean making mas. Islands such as St Kitts and Montserrat celebrate Carnival during the month of December and on other islands certain carnival characters make an appearance to remind everyone that carnival is coming in the New Year. This Carnival Christmas Nativity Display presented by Northampton Carnival Arts Consortium draws on some of these characters and the spirit of Carnival.

King of The Dance”

 The Midnight Robber”

Ancestorial King

Carnival Christmas Angel

Not being able to provide a spectacular Carnival Parade through the town for 2020 brought about the idea to uplift the town centre for Christmas with a Carnival Display. Through the amazing collaboration of artists Emma Garofalo and Simon Tipping this idea has been brought to life for your enjoyment.

Acknowledgement and Thanks to the following without whom this display would not be possible: East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Consortium, Arts Council England, Northampton Borough Council, The Deco Theatre, Derek Simpson, Kevin Roach and Donna Fox.

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Brewing UP

Brewing UP, An Inspire mark project – Festive Road 2009 to 2012

Entertaining visitors and corporates at the Olympic park 27 July 2012

A national street touring performance piece and intervention

A series of school and community workshops

 “If making tea was an Olympic sport, what qualities would you need to make the perfect cup?”

This Festive Road project inspired Simon Tipping’s interest in different celebration traditions and different carnival cultures. Simon is interested in uncovering ‘Britishness’. Tea is seen as quintessentially British but it’s not a British product. The tea & sugar trade provides an important link with our multi-cultural history and identity; also, with our industrial, political and economic history, especially with China, India and the Caribbean. This rich history provides a valuable education and heritage aspect to his work so that he can engage more easily with schools, colleges and youth groups.

Pax Nindi said ‘A few years ago, I was involved in assisting a group of very talented artists to be an arts organisation of which Simon was one of the artists. Since then, the group is now a well-established and respected Arts organisation which I am aware Simon played a key role in its development.

I never seize to be amazed by his artistic drive, attention to detail and most all his relaxed approach to delivery of any commission he gets – big or small.

Simon has the power to inspire all those around him and is respected in the sector. I will always support his endeavours and will commission him anytime I have a project that needs him’.

Pax Nindi FRSA

Chief Executive at Global Carnivalz, January 2017

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Recycling a BMW MINI – The Bullnose project

Cowley Road Carnival 2018

Simon worked with a group of apprentices from MINI and a graffiti artist to recycle a car into a carnival float, the mini had failed quality control and road safety once off the production line at Cowley, Oxford. The car was taken apart and put back together using the parts minus the engine, once completed the ‘Bullnose’ took part in the Cowley Road Carnival.

A group of apprentices worked with artists Simon Tipping and Andrew Manson to create this ‘Bullnose’ MINI. The theme of 2018 carnival is ‘Icons of Art’ with the finished product being a bright and eccentric car that matches the theme but stands out through its bold design. The apprentices showed their artistic flare, while creating innovative ideas and engineering solutions that have enabled a truly unique and eye-catching creation in homage to the plant’s first car – the Bullnose Morris.

MINI Plant Oxford

Steve Wrelton
External Communications Manager

AK-1-UK-2 Corporate Communications

Nigel Barber, Group Leader, Apprentice Training School, said: “The Cowley Road Carnival is a great community event and we’re really delighted to be a central part of it this year. The apprentices have worked really hard in coming up with creative ideas and engineering solutions to make it work and I’m really proud of their efforts. As well as being a great exercise in creativity, the carnival offers us a platform to engage with local people and promote the apprenticeship scheme on our doorstep.”

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Post Cards from Brazil – 2014

A research trip that provided valuable professional development and networking opportunities for Simon Tipping who has been developing a Giants parade in Milton Keynes and is researching Brazilian carnival roots and Samba performance for Festive Road, (carnival and outdoor arts company based in MK).

GRES Union Curicica Park Galeria do Samba – The samba schools of Rio de JaneiroEmbaixadores da Alegria. Formed mainly by people with motor and cognitive disabilities, the samba school traditionally opens the parade of champions on the Saturday of Rio de Janeiro’s carnival
Ala 03 – Mao para colher   Sugar cane workers – In the bottle, in the barrel, save the rum, cultural heritage of BrazilArtist Emma Garofalo designed and fabricated a large processional dragon with the help of a group of carnival artists visiting from the UK.
Simon and a group of carnival artists take part in The Rio de Janeiro carnival on 1st March at the famous samba dromeSimon and a group of carnival artists take part in The Rio de Janeiro carnival on 8th  March at the famous samba drome

Making space is limited, most costumes are made in peoples flats, houses, and back yards.

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Walking with Giants Milton Keynes 2012 – 2015

Recycling pop up tents collected from Reading Festival into Giant puppets, made with Stephenson’s Academy.

Conceived & produced by Simon Tipping with Festive Road, Walking with Giants ran from 2012 – 2015 to showcase Festive Roads work and celebrate the creativity of Milton Keynes through carnival. The event is based on the Medieval Midsummer Watch a traditional British style walking parade. The carnival had the support of Milton Keynes Council, the Theatre District, TheHub:MK, MK Festival Fringe, Age UK Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes Music service, MK International Festival, Milton Keynes Gallery as well as the community & schools Milton Keynes. The bulk of the giants for the event are created in a series of community workshops run by Simon & Festive Road artists, supplemented by professionally made giants from street event companies from around the country.

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African Giant for MK Melting pot

One of two African Giant for MK Melting pot – Head and hands made from recycled cardboard on a bamboo frame, made water resistant with water-based glue and paint. A Black History Month event in October 2018 which will was held at the Open Market square, Central Milton Keynes.

The MK Melting Pot team said. ‘We would like to say a ‘BIG thank you’ and the Route Canal Arts team for your valuable time, support and hard work to make the event colourful, enjoyful and successful.

Despite of cold weather, visitors and residents from different cultural and ethnic groups from all over Milton Keynes joined in the parade and enjoyed the day. We are grateful and delighted that you and your team’s support and co-operation enabled us to deliver this 30th year celebration event of Black History Month in UK which reflected the culture and heritage of Black African and Caribbean communities in Milton Keynes’.

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The Paper Boat Challenge – Caldecotte Waterside Festive

The renowned Paper Boat Challenge was held annually at Caldecotte Lake. It is an event of ingenuity and creative skills. The challenge is to construct a paper boat using waterbase products, which will not only float but was capable of transporting three people a distance of at least 50 metres. In 1996 and 1998 boats design by Simon & built by young people won the challenge, to date Simon’s record for the event of endurance is 40 mins in the water, 1998.

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Whole School Carnivals – an example

This is an excellent example of of Simon Tipping of Route Canal Arts producing a whole school carnival from start to finish, a process that involves talking to the school to find out what they want, working with teachers to design costumes to be made in the classroom without the artist and large processional structures made with artist and young people. All the hard work is then shown off in a school event and parade for all the community to see.

Northampton school turns 90-years-old, gets letter from the Queen, and throws a carnival

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Rio Olympics Carnival 2016 a whole school project

A rich & vibrant artform, carnival encompasses costume, music & movement. A fantastic way to engage a large group of learners in a positive participatory experience, Carnival has a rich history, encompassing different cultures & stories; it is all about celebration, creativity & community. Our Rio experience will also encapsulate the official Olympic values; EXCELLENCE, RESPECT & FRIENDSHIP

Simon Tipping on project managed and acted as lead artist to work with all classes at Cedar Road primary School to provide music, dance and making workshops  which celebrate the activity and energy of the young people of the school through the theme of ‘Brazil, Rio Olympics and Brazilian Carnival’.

  1. To provide Brizilian style taster in  music and dance
  2. To help make and design 7 sets of costumes based on the theme of ‘Brazilian Carnival’. Working with Reception class to Year 6.
  3. To make large processional puppets/figures/sculpture which will become the focus of a celebration parade.

Primary School celebrates turning 90 years old

Northampton Herald & Post By NickBieberHP  |  Posted: May 27, 2016

Hundreds of children at a Northampton primary school brought the sights and sounds of Rio De Janeiro to the town in a spectacular carnival today – to mark their school’s 90th birthday.

Over 400 pupils at Cedar Road Academy, watched by their proud families, took to the streets surrounding the school in Abington in the warm sunshine to celebrate the milestone – in Brazilian style.

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outgoing headteacher Mrs Kay Gerrett, who retired in 2016, the kids paraded the streets to the sound of drums in hand-made animal costumes and headdresses.

Residents stood outside their homes to watch the parade pass, before the children – aged between four and 11 – brought the atmosphere back to the school playground where the celebrations continued.

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A series of dance performances, a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to you’ and a conga then brought the fun and excitement to a close – as the kids looked forward to starting their week-long half term holiday.

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Mrs Gerrett, who will retire before the end of the year, said of the carnival: “It just blew me away, to see the parents get involved and be part of the school family, that’s what life is about – having fun.

“I am just so proud of all the children, they have all been well behaved, all loved it, all had a wonderful time, been safe and made sure everyone else has had a nice time, it is feel-good really.”

The 90th birthday celebrations come a month after Her Majesty the Queen – who also turned 90 this year – sent the school her ‘good wishes’ in a letter, while also wishing the headteacher a happy retirement.

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The letter – from Her Majesty’s Lady-in-Waiting – was in reply to one which was sent to the Queen by the school’s parent and teacher association – wishing her a happy birthday and informing her that the school is of the same age.

“It was quite a moment (when I saw the letter on my desk),” she said. “To actually get a letter from a Lady in Waiting to wish us happy birthday when it is the Queen’s birthday too, it’s unbelievable.

“To actually see the Buckingham Palace stamp, it makes you go emotional really – your heart starts racing and you think ‘what’s this?! I just couldn’t bellieve it. I took a copy home, of course!”

Asked why she will be leaving the school – which is part of the David Ross Education Trust – before Christmas this year, after 11 years in the position, Mrs Gerrett said: “It’s time for a new challenge, a new section of my life really.

“Headship takes up your life 24/7 – it’s always on your mind, it is always there, you could always be doing something else. I’m so passionate about it really – so I need a rest.”

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The carnival was set up thanks to money raised by the school’s parent and teacher association – £8,000 in total – and helped them to enlist a outdoor arts company to help put the carnival together.

The Milton Keynes-based artist Simon Tipping, also helps to organise the annual Diwali festival in Northampton, as well as the upcoming Northampton Carnival – which Cedar Road Academy will also be participating in.

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Asked for her final message to pupils as they break up for the half term holiday, Mrs Gerrett – who has been teaching for 38 years – said: “I am very proud of them – thank you for your hard work, enthusiasm and commitment – they are a demonstration of our core values in the school.

The headteacher, a former Vernon Terrace, Westone Primary and Northampton School for girls pupil, added: “I am extremely happy and I think it’s safe to say that this has been the perfect end to a term.”

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Using Sustainable materials in the Carnival Arts

Since 2019 Route Canal Arts and Simon Tipping has been developing a sustainable ethos in the materials, we use to create carnival costume and large processional sculptures.  Mainly looking at the possibilities of eliminating or reducing the amount of petroleum-based materials used in the carnival sector. As most of Route Canal Arts workshops takes place in primary schools and with community groups we are taking a practical look on how this will impacted on activities through developing methods in creativity using sustainable material and whether it will increase the time spent with people, increase preparation time or impact on the quality of work produced or have a substantial effect on groups of special needs.

We believe that climate change and sustainability are manifestations of cultural values. Our vision is contingent on values that recognise our place in the ecosystem.

Our values come from a deep appreciation of the world around us; some understanding of how we affect it; and a commitment to bring to it our very best.’

Julies Bicycle values

Evaluating materials in the creative process

As carnival artists we have tended to use bright colours, fibre rod and lots of shinny stuff using modern materials produced from petroleum, in the classroom they have had the benefit of being quick and easy to use to produce stunning costumes with people of all ages. Many artists are socially responsible sourcing recycled materials to use in their practice and in educational settings but unfortunately most of these are plastics which once altered invariably cannot be recycled and end up in landfill or rivers or oceans. Reducing the amount of plastics has now become a hot topic and we need as a sector to look at the implication and impact it has on our activities.

Sustainable materials are materials used throughout our consumer and industrial economy that can be produced in required volumes without depleting non-renewable resources and without disrupting the established steady-state equilibrium of the environment and key natural resource systems.

Paper, paper pulp, tissue paper and cardboard

Paper and cardboard are cheap and easily accessible materials to obtain and recycle. Idea for making large sculptural and puppet like structures, carnival masks and headdresses

Using a little bit of maths, science and a lot of hard work its possible to make a boat to hold 3 or 4 young out of paper products which will float for up to 40 minutes on water before sinking.

Bamboo cane and poles

Cardboard puppets on bamboo frames and backpacks

Rubber, rubber inner-tube and motorcycle tyres

  • True rubber comes from the rubber plant but can also be made synthetically, rubber inner-tubes can replace cable ties while motorcycle tyres can be cut up and stuck together to make outdoor sculptures

Sustainable glues and tapes

plant and animal based, rubber latex glue, biodegradable PVA, Gluten glues.

Rubber latex glue or Copydex can be used to stick textiles together or lantern making, also it’s biodegradable. It’s possible to make your own glues from food stuff found in the kitchen. (See our blog on How to make glue at home)

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Transformers, St Paul’s Secondary School, Parade of Colours, Milton Keynes. Cardboard and paper Mâché costumes

Natural fibres

plant and animal based – Hemp, organic cotton, silks

The process to make natural fibres into usable products is not always environmentally friendly.


Hardboard, MDF and plywood are manufactured with glues from unsustainable sources


Baskets, Lantern making and sculptural work. Willow can easily be grown and coppices in backgardens.

Water soluble paint and textile dyes

Bright, shinny, or fluorescent colour is the hardest to reproduce from sustainable sources, but we are working that. Most natural colour is pastel or earthy in tone. Like glue it’s possible to make your own base paint from food stuff found in the kitchen and then add colour. (See our blog on How to make your own paint at Home)

Aluminium and steel

Although aluminium and steel is not grown it’s considered sustainable as it can be melted down and refashioned again and again. Useful in making Bicycle powered vehicles, sculpture, backpacks, wire bending, frames, puppets etc.

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Colourful Aluminium cans can easily be cut with scissors and used in decoration

What sustainable ethical questions should we ask before choosing materials for workshops or art projects?

  1. Are the materials used in carnival arts sustainable and environmentally friendly?
  2. Are materials from sustainable sources biodegradable or recyclable
  3. If materials used need to be from unsustainable sources what is the criteria for using them e.g. artistic merit, weight, longevity, commercial – hired out over a 10 year period.

Other considerations to think about apart from the materials used is the transportation of our King and Queen structures, costumes, masquerades, carnival bands and instruments.


  1. Will the use of Sustainable materials reduce who we are able to work with in educational environments?
  2. Are the materials easy to use and manipulate?
  3. Will using sustainable materials impact on budgets?
  4. Will using sustainable materials increase preparation and making time?
  5. Will using water-soluble products increase drying time?
Towards a Greener Carnival, 13th & 14th March 2020, a Carnival Network South Conference.

The creative design thinking will require a new dimension where the retrieval, dismantling and reuse of carnival costume and structures will be designed into the product from the beginning.

This project has been supported by Carnival Network South, The Arts Council England and Route Canal Arts.

Please feedback on this article so that we can evolve the use of sustainable materials, costume design and carnival.

A carnival day in school making carnival hats with year 3

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Who is Route Canal Arts

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Established 2017

Simon Tipping: Creative Director and Founder of Route canal Arts is passionate about delivering high quality experiences in the indoor and outdoor arts sector, he brings a wealth of experience in engaging the young and the old in creative learning, making art accessible, relevant and participatory for everyone.

Simon loves carnival, having attended the Trinidad, Viareggio and Venice carnivals, participated at the Rio carnival with Paul Davies and his Embaixadores da Alegria, travelled to Bei Jing, China with Ali Pretty’s Kinetika and her Imagination Our Nation project, as well as show casing the work of Festive Road at the Thames festival night time carnival.

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Over the past 35 years Simon has worked regularly and extensively across schools and communities including Special Needs, working with inmates at HM Prisons, Adult Learning, Sure Start, Youth Clubs, Events & Festivals in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, and Somerset as a freelance artist, in partnership with other fellow artists or as Route Canal Arts.

Is art education the glue that holds the school together?

The arts in Schools is often placed outside of the subject areas considered as ‘core academic subjects. As educators and artists, we must use the core subjects of English, maths and science to be able to deliver our creativity with a sprinkling of history and geography. Students taking part in school-based extracurricular art, drama or music activities is, along with feelings of connection to peers, the most important contributor to school engagement.

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Walking with Giants carnival parade, Milton Keynes

Whether your project is large or small Route Canal Arts can offer help and advice at every stage.

One of Route Canal Arts specialisation is Project management with a proven record in delivering art projects, workshops, carnivals and lantern parades within cost, schedule, and resource constraints. We have hands-on skills in organising parades, bringing together local communities, recycling, using materials from sustainable sources, funding advice, Health and Safety, Risk assessments, road closure and road management, a network of artists, dancers, and musicians help to ensure that project goals are realised from start to finish.

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Creative Partnerships makes a positive difference to how teachers teach, people and students think

Route Canal Arts offers participants including business, a break from their routine to engage in creative Team Building activities which promote the benefits of working in collaboration, unlocks hidden talents and constructively addresses issues.

Workshops are facilitated by expert practitioners who have years of experience creating motivational environments and empowering participants to overcome their inhibitions. Activities are designed to stimulate creative thinking, break down communication barriers and boost confidence, whilst providing valuable opportunities for individual growth.

As visual artists we love Carnival because it involves skilled art forms across music, movement, sculpture, recycling, textiles, and costume. These art forms are not just rooted in the UK but traditions from all around the world. 

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Mk Dhol drumming band 2008 to 2017

As a provider of a service to the community, Route Canal Arts accepts the responsibility to promote equal opportunities and challenge discrimination wherever it occurs.

Route Canal Arts values the diversity of the local population. We want our services, facilities and resources to be accessible and useful to every citizen regardless of gender, age, ethnic origin, religious belief, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or any other individual characteristic which may unfairly affect a person’s opportunities in life.

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