PNM chairman Franklin Khan’s opening statements at Wednesday’s PNM Macoya Divali celebration noted that Divali transcends politics.
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The man behind Pierrot Grenade
He committed himself to delivering the best pierrot grenade there could ever be in the Caribbean region for the past 31 years. He has travelled to several countries, including Switzerland, Europe, Canada, and the US, representing Trinidad & Tobago at cultural festivals and educating people on the history of this Carnival character. Felix Edinborough, the man behind the pierrot grenade, is truly one of T&T’s noble cultural ambassadors. And as we enter into the beginning of another decade, he shares with us his life as the pierrot grenade
“I was always involved in mas from a very young age because my father, Louis Edinborough, used to organise the village Carnival in Petit Valley,” Edinborough recalled. “I was also a member of the Petit Valley Performers Best Village group. “I used to write skits for the group, and one year I wrote a Carnival skit and I was looking for a good Carnival character for the narrator. “I thought of using the midnight robber but then I reneged on that thought because I found that type of speech would not have been the type of presentation I wanted,” explained Edinborough.
Eventually, after much searching without success, Edinborough decided to use a pierrot grenade for the narrator. However, his quest to find someone who could portray the character well was also unsuccessful, and so Edinborough decided to do it himself. Once Edinborough made the decision to become the pierrot grenade, he began research on the long standing Carnival character. “I didn’t know much about the pierrot grenade except for what my mother had told me, so I did a lot of research.
“I read any written material I could have found on traditional Carnival characters,” said Edinborough. Little did he know that his hard work would have paid off. That year Petit Valley Performers won in the category of Best Carnival Skit. “I thought this would have been just a one off thing, but from that performance my life as the pierrot grenade began. “Helen Camps was the director at Little Carib Theatre at that time. She had seen my performance and invited me to bring the character into the theatre. I would be writing Carnival productions with the pierrot grenade in it and playing the character as well—I accepted,” laughed Edinborough.
It was while performing at the Little Carib Theatre that Edinborough became acquainted with comedian Paul Keens Douglas. Douglas invited him to be a part of his talk tent in 1983. Edinborough accepted and soon joined John Agitation, “Poggy” (mid night robber) and other stand-up comedians. “I stayed with the talk tent and before I knew it, I was the permanent pierrot grenade. Realising the character would be his role in Carnival, Edinborough continued his research on the pierrot grenade, reading books written by Andrew Carr, Errol Hill and others.
The retired teacher has taken the character of the pierrot grenade to schools. He is highly sought after to perform at private and public at Carnival functions, and has even been part of functions hosted by former prime minister Patrick Manning at his residence. He records his pierrot grenade portrayal in Germany at the 2006 Fifa World Cup as one of his most memorable. Declaring that his work in researching the character is never done, Edinborough said he would fall back when he was satisfied that someone else could execute the role of the pierrot grenade better than he ever did.
“It would be nice for the pierrot grenade to be around for generations to come. There is a lot of work to be done by the stakeholders of Carnival to preserve all traditional Carnival characters. “We are doing our part to keep them alive. I am still involved in Best Village at the level of a judge now, and every year a competition is held for traditional Carnival characters. “Also every Carnival Wednesday, each year, the public can familiarise themselves with all the Carnival characters at our parade at Victoria Square,” said Edinborough.
He said another parade of the characters, which was sponsored by Digicel, also took place on Carnival Sunday, beginning at Piccadilly Greens, and culminating at Adam Smith Square. “We really need to protect these characters. So for as long as nature would permit me to be, I will continue to be the pierrot grenade.”