Steve Boyle and Ian Fradgley are two school friends of mine. In 1982 they formed a group called Carnival who created self-penned, lovingly crafted pop songs and rode the early eighties Merseybeat wave. They even recorded a couple of BBC Radio 1 sessions along the way.
Steve played guitar and synthesiser and Ian played bass. They were joined by Kevin Wright, also on guitar, and drummer Mike Ward. For a while there was also a saxaphone player called Paul Roberts.
At first I was slightly envious of Steve and Ian’s glamourous new band mates but, after meeting them and finding we had things in common, they became my friends too. I enjoyed watching them play in Liverpool venues like The Warehouse, The Masonic and The Pyramid Club.
At the time I was having creative ambitions of my own. I had begun to sneak my camera into gigs and had started developing and printing my own black and white film at home, setting up a makeshift darkroom in my Mother’s kitchen. Before too long it was suggested that I take some pictures of Carnival.
The band used to rehearse in a building called ‘The Ministry’ in Liverpool city centre, which is where I took these photographs. I was heavily influenced by the work of Pennie Smith, Jill Furmanovsky, Anton Corbijn and Kevin Cummins that I’d seen in The NME and The Face.
Looking back I recall being slightly nervous during the shoot. I was on their territory, they were acting ‘cool’ and behaving like getting their picture taken was a bit of a chore. I was conscious that I was imposing on their valuable rehearsal time. You can perhaps see their impatience in the pictures.
Appraising this work with the perspective of time and experience, I can see that these photographs aren’t perfect. It seems like I was trying to play with moody lighting and long exposures. Some of the pictures aren’t even in focus but it doesn’t seem to matter. To me there’s something experimental and atmospheric about the results. I’m just pleased that I tried to do something interesting rather than play safe.
Carnival never quite got the record deal they deserved. Fate, girls, and art school conspired to send them in different directions. I hope these photographs and their surviving digitised songs go some way into honouring their moodily lit memory.
In 2019 Carnival released a retrospective limited edition 12″ 5 track EP of songs they recorded in 1982-1983 called From Strawberry Fields to the Pyramid Club (with love) on Firestation Records of Berlin. As a result of the support of this record by BBC 6Music DJ Gilles Peterson the remaining Carnival members were signed to a worldwide deal with Mr Bongo Records in 2020.