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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