By Scyllina Samuel

The Old Yard 2024, themed “Year of the Blue”, is a nostalgic journey, filled with calypso melodies that transport visitors. Held on February 4 at the grounds of The UWI’s Global Campus on Gordon St in St Augustine, The Old Yard is more than an event space – it is a time machine to Carnival’s past. It is hosted by the Carnival Studies Unit of the Department of Creative and Festival Arts (DCFA)

Visitors walk on trimmed grass. Colourful galvanised fences surround the space, referred to as “de yard”. Within is the domain of the locals. These include Grandma Titi, Doctor, Nurse, Officer, Thief, Fancy Indians, Pierrot Grenade, Baby Doll, Moko Jumbies, Midnight Robber, Dame Lorraines, Jab Jabs, Gorillas, the Paramin Blue Devils, and the Dragon.

Families unfold chairs and lay picnic blankets under the tree shade. Children dance around the yard to the rhythm of kaiso. People share stories, boasting of their yearly attendance. The event has become a second home for a particular young girl. Six years ago, she celebrated her birthday at the yard. Now, the entire audience joins in singing for her 12th.

It feels like a close-knit family. A shared love for Trinbagonian history, folklore, and culture binds them. During the event, a father instructs his son to request Never Ever Worry by Lord Pretender from the DJ. Young students, guided by their teacher, request Black Sage. They celebrate with an impromptu dance when it plays.

For many, the highlight of the day is the traditional Carnival characters. The Fancy Indians captivate the audience with their colourful feathers and unique chants. The Pierrot Grenade entertains with her unconventional spelling. The Baby Doll confronts young men for child support, drawing laughter from the crowd. The Midnight Robber enters the yard with a chilling whistle. He tells a haunting story, leaving the crowd silent. The Gorillas leaps, filling the yard with energy. Brave children scream into the faces of the Jab Jabs and Blue Devils, challenging them. The visitors become a large part of the performance.

Strange and sometimes grotesque characters appear at the Dame Lorraine Ball. “Madam Piss-en-lit” (French for piss a bed), portrays a very unhygienic woman. She holds an old-school plastic potty in her hands and drinks from it. There are other versions, such as “Madam Sore Foot” and “Madam Big Belly”.

As the afternoon progresses, the legendary Super Blue steals the spotlight. He sings his major hits, including Soca Kingdom, Fantastic Friday, and Bacchanal Time. The crowd, covered in baby powder, jumps to the rhythms, filling the space. The UWI Arts Percussion Ensemble integrates themselves into the vibrant sounds. They turn plastic dustbins and metal trash cans into instruments.

In the end, participants speak about The Old Yard's significance. They express comfort and joy in seeing history and culture pass on to the next generation. It is much more than a show. "Year of the Blue" represents a commitment to preserving traditional Carnival arts. It is also a community of the festival managers and performers (many of them students and staff of the DCFA), and the audience that work together to create a creative and cultural corridor through time.

Scyllina Samuel is a writer and a second year Literature and Communications student at UWI St Augustine.