Celebrating Black History Month: Preston Caribbean Carnival founder Phil Duncan
Every October we celebrate the achievements of the African and Caribbean community through Black History Month. Black History Group hosted Black to the Future to highlight achievements within their community.
One cult figure honoured during the evening was Phil Duncan, known as Mr Carnival.
After moving to Preston in 1957, the now 80-year-old took an interest in the city’s heritage and wanted to create something new for the African community and came up with the Caribbean Carnival.
He now lives in Banksfield Nursing Home in Fulwood, where he is supported by staff for his dementia.
Lisa Hopkins knows Mr Duncan well after taking over Spectrum Association Carnival Dance Troupe, from him.
She says: “I refer to Phil as my adopted uncle as I have got to know him quite well through Spectrum.
“He came to Preston in 1957 and got an apprenticeship, working as an engineer and travelled to Holland and Sweden. He came back to Preston and met up with some fellow men from the Grenadine islands and they made a pact to stay in Preston.
“He went on to work at the Milk Marketing Board in Bamber Bridge and met some more people from the black community.
“After seeing the Preston Guild in 1972 Phil approached Preston City Council about an idea for a Caribbean Carnival.
“And so it began and he and a few others became founding members.
“At the start it was very basic as there was no funding – they had to beg and borrow what they could.
“But Preston had never seen anything like this before.
“Over the years the carnival developed and is now massive. People come from all over the country. As long as there is an interest in Caribbean culture, no matter where you are from, everybody is welcome.
“It is all about togetherness and a piece of home for Phil and the rest of the community. It is about showcasing fabulous costumes and embracing the colour of the carnival. If we didn’t have the carnival, Preston would be dull. It gives people a focus and with the associated dance groups it gets children off the streets and builds their confidence.
“Phil is very proud of the carnival’s success. Unfortunately his memory is fading but if you mention the carnival and Spectrum especially, he eyes light up. For a short period of time we get Mr Carnival back. He is Preston’s
famous carnival king and is respected all over the country.
“Carnival is his life.”