Back in the day

Back view of carnival performers
Notting Hill Carnival, London

A couple of years ago I had a gig as a samba drummer. There were rehearsals in derelict warehouses and a music studio in south-east London. My own choice was the second surdo drum at the audition, but they said to play another for the purposes of the exercise. Later they suggested the repinique drum. Despite my hard work and attending private drumming lessons, I was dropped from the bateria. I fought successfully to be part of the production team instead. And like all good fairy tales, I was asked to fill in for someone who hadn’t turned up on the day of the performance. The golden costume was adjusted and there I was like Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street ready to go. When we were young we were warned to act in a way that would not bring shame on the family. Often we were humiliated by others, but it was our own embarrassment that was our stick. When I was 11, my mum applied for me to go to the selective secondary school, my teachers turned up at our house unannounced to speak to my mother about her choice. They caught her with the washing hanging out. She knew why they were there, but I went to the school she chose.