Women of the Brazilian Bands

Meet the women of Notting Hill Carnival

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

Tamzyn French

Tamzyn French has worked with the Kinetika Bloco for 16 of its 20-years existence. She began as Bloco Administrator when Bloco was just a project within carnival organisation Kinetika Art Links International. As the Bloco grew in size and success she took on setting it up as an independent charity in 2010 and is now the CEO.

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

"She leads a creative and administrative team of 25, many of whom have grown up in the Bloco as members and are now employed to help run the organisation. She is passionate about building a family environment where all young people can access exciting musical experiences within the Bloco and beyond to the Arts sector."

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

What are the challenges of being a woman in Carnival?

"There are some strong characters at Carnival and so I don’t think the challenges I see are specifically towards women, I think you just have to be a fairly strong person in general to ensure you overcome the challenges needed to lead a Carnival organisation. People are passionate about Carnival because it is a celebration of heritage and history, not just a “performance”, but this can sometimes come over forcefully."

"Carnival weekend can be overwhelming when you look at the crowds and police everywhere. We work with young people and taking them to Notting Hill Carnival is a mission to ensure they are safe, contained, and get to perform at their best. But I think for all these challenges I just try and remember why I am there."

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

"For the young people we work with this is an important celebration of their heritage and so I have to be strong, determined, stand my ground, work hard, maintain good relationships, sometimes “act my socks off” and stay positive for them, to ensure they get to experience the best of Carnival. I think as flexible, resilient women we can navigate these challenges"

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

Any advice for a young woman trying to form a band?

"For me, if you are trying to establish a mas band that is about helping people in some way – whether young people, the community, artists – think through the ‘why’ clearly. Think through what values are important to you in what you are creating. Decide what change you want to help create – whether that’s artistic or social."

"Write all those things down! I think the most important thing to do when starting any organisation is to know the why, the values and the impact you want to have. Then every time you get knocked back whether by an overly pushy man, an institution telling you no or your ego trying to sabotage things – you go back to why you are doing it in the first place."

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

What's your favourite memory of Carnival?

"Notting Hill 2018, our theme was the music of New Orleans and we stopped at the top of Ladbroke Grove and the band played ‘Just a closer Walk with Thee’. In amongst all the crowds, police and performers covered in chocolate from Jouvay, seventy young musicians from South London took everyone to church. It was a beautiful clash of cultures and expression of how London is a melting pot where everyone should be able to celebrate their heritage, their art, their story together."

Tamzyn FrenchNotting Hill Carnival

Who is woman who inspires you and why?

"One lady who had a big impact on me growing up was Daphne King, my college choir leader, in Great Yarmouth! She set up this regional choir that we all joined, I wasn’t that great, I just wanted to be in it. We used to go on trips and sing in competitions and she ran everything with such joy and fun that it seemed like it was effortless."

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