Vernon "Fellows" Williams (1977/1977) by Norman ReidNotting Hill Carnival
The Founding of Genesis Carnival Band
Genesis was established in 1980 by one of the founding members of Notting Hill Carnival, Vernon ‘Fellows’ Williams who designed all costumes from 1980 - 2001. Genesis are renowned for portraying historical themes about real life civilisations through their costuming.
Allyson Williams talking about Vernon Williams
'He was a great teacher and a great mentor, and he was very passionate about the art because he felt it was such a strong representation of our roots. It all started back in the day when the slaves were emancipated and the celebration part of it was reenacted and celebrated on a yearly basis and he loved that… He liked historical themes, ‘cause he felt it was a good representation of people gone by, people from the past, to represent them, and so most of our themes were historical until later on when we went into fantasy or contemporary.’
Genesis Mas Band Costumes (1980/1980) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1980s: The Great Khans
For Genesis' first Notting Hill Carnival in '80, the historical theme showcased the characters of the great Khan dynasty of the Mongol Empire, from Genghis Khan to Kublai Khan.
This image shows the King and Queen parading alongside male individuals of the band.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (1984/1984) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1980s: Land of the Pharaohs
In '84, Genesis attended Carnival with the historical theme 'Land of the Pharaohs', portraying life in Ancient Egypt.
Featured in this image is Allyson Williams MBE as Queen of the Band.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (1985/1985) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1980s: South American Indians
In Notting Hill Carnival '85, Genesis represented the diverse histories of South American indigenous groups.
Pictured here is the King of the Band, fitted in his resplendent mas costume.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (1990/1990) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1990s: Angels and Devils
Ushering in the new decade, Genesis continued to celebrate historical civilisations and cultural themes for Notting Hill Carnival.
Pictured here is 'the Devil Lucifer', King of the Band for '90's Angels and Devils theme.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (1998/1998) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1990s: Watusi Warriors
In '98, Genesis celebrated South African indigenous groups through their theme 'Watusi Warriors'.
Featured here is the Queen of the Band in her elaborate costume.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (1999/1999) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 1990s: Millennium Dome Opening Ceremony
In 1999, Genesis was commissioned to create costumes for the momentous opening ceremony of the Millennium Dome.
Allyson Williams: '...It was wonderful, it was a really good representation, because although it looked black and white, it was - the colours - it was very iridescent, so when the lights hit the costume it was really spectacular.'
Genesis Mas Band Costume (2000/2000) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2000s: East Meets West
The turn of the new millennium saw the return of Genesis to Notting Hill Carnival. Pictured here is Kevin Williams playing mas for 2000's 'East meets West' theme, celebrating cultural diversity across geographic and national borders.
Vernon "Fellows" Williams (1977/1977) by Norman ReidNotting Hill Carnival
Sadly, Vernon Williams passed away in May 2002. His family carried on with the arrangement of the band, with daughter Symone Williams taking lead responsibility.
The new millennium saw a change in style of costume that was demanded by the new and younger patrons of the band.
Genesis Mas Band Costume (2002/2002) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2000s: Back to Africa, Shango
This costume from 'Back to Africa' in '02 depicts the major deity Shango from the Yoruba religion of Nigeria. Shango is the god of fire, thunder and lightening and is described as powerful. This costume was particularly significant to Genesis as it was created the year that Vernon Williams passed away.
Genesis Mas Band Costumes (2004/2004) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2000s: Sailors in this time
In ‘04, the Genesis theme was ‘Sailors in this time’. Using this theme, the Band built a tribute puppet to commemorate the life of Vernon Williams. The 16ft puppet was designed by Williams’ daughter and son, Symone and Kevin, with Kevin wearing the puppet on the day of Carnival.
Symone Williams on the legacy of Vernon Williams
‘I think the legacy of my dad, Vernon, will be that he shared the art form, he wanted people to learn how to make costumes in the most authentic, creative way possible. And it is a traditional skill and it was a skill that he learnt in Trinidad, and he brought here, and he shared it with many many designers that you will find in the industry now who have learnt from him.’
Genesis Mas Band Puppet (2004/2004) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
‘I remember, at a young age, people coming into the Mas camp and my dad was showing people how to make this, how to do that, how to design and I was like ‘dad, how are you showing all your secrets?’ and he said, ‘Sym, they will never be able to design the same as you, because what you do is you, you’re authentic, but it’s the only way that the tradition and the culture will live on.’ And so I remembered that, and that is basically the legacy of Vernon and the legacy of Genesis.’
Genesis Mas Band Costumes (2009/2009) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2000s: Inspired By Nature
This image shows the Notting Hill Carnival theme of 'Inspired By Nature' which was depicted by Genesis Mas Band in 2009. These costumes were designed by Symone Williams and Emily Greaves (pictured bottom right).
Genesis Mas Band Costume (2013/2013) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2010s: Tobago Love
The theme of 2013 was 'Tobago Love', and this image shows a member of the Band sporting a costume designed by Symone Williams, who won the prize for 'Best Costume Designer'.
Genesis Mas Band Costumes (2019/2019) by Genesis Carnival BandNotting Hill Carnival
The 2010s: Afro Spice
At the most recent Notting Hill Carnival on the road in 2019, Genesis Mas Band portrayed the theme of 'Afro Spice' through their costuming.
Symone WilliamsNotting Hill Carnival
The Future of Genesis Mas Band
Symone: '... getting more people involved in the design element in band leadership. I’m doing a video series now that I'm turning into an online course. And I've got an itch to write about Carnival, mum and I have this little itch about researching and writing, so that might be part of the future… we are doing a 40th anniversary book to celebrate… our story and how we got this far, who’s been involved, all the other designers, collaborators, funders, masqueraders, it’s a massive celebration, and i think the rest is going to kind of unfold...’
Symone and Allyson would like to celebrate the unsung heroes of Notting Hill Carnival; the illustrators, welders and makeup artists, and all those who work behind the scenes to make Carnival as spectacular as it is. Look out for the release of their book on Genesis Carnival Band, due for publication later this year!
Notting Hill Carnival 2020: Access All Areas
Watch Kevin Williams discuss the importance of Mas performance as a 'cultural phenomenon', as well as the influence behind the Genesis Mas Band costumes throughout the years, and the performance from Notting Hill Carnival 2020: Access All Areas.