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Tributes to the ‘grande dame’ of Notting Hill carnival Gloria Cummins

MP Karen Buck praises 'pillar of the community' following funeral on Monday

13 October, 2017 — By Alexis Sogl

Gloria Cummins – Pic: Flamboyan Carnival Arts 

TRIBUTES have been paid to the “grande dame” of Notting Hill carnival who became a pillar of the Paddington community.

Friends told how Gloria Cummins, who died recently aged 78, would often work between 80 and 100 hours a week during Carnival season, making costumes and organising music.

Many benefited from her passion for the arts, including long-time friend Eartha Pond who had known her from an early age.

Ms Pond, a Queen’s Park community councillor, said: “She was a major part of west London heritage.

“She’s really been a pioneer in supporting the community, not only at Flamboyan [Carnival Arts charity] but also just supporting other organisations that ran similar kind of engagement activities, in all different areas and for different age groups.

“She engaged in systematic organisation, thinking about her target audience, and how different groups could work together. Once people learned enough, they opened up their own sections, continuing that knowledge they picked up. It was sort of like a chain reaction. “The amount of attention that was delivered was above and beyond the timetable, so people just assumed it was kind of a 24-hour opportunity. And it was in a sense because there was an open door policy.”

Ms Cummins’ funeral took place in Maida Hill on Monday

Ms Pond added: “It will be hard to imagine her not being there, but as she said, ‘the show must go on’. A lot of the same people are still involved, it will now give someone else the opportunity to step up and continue that legacy. People like her children, who have done this sort of work since day one.”

Gloria, whose funeral was held at Fernhead Road Methodist church, Maida Hill, on Monday, moved to Britain from Trinidad in the 1960s, taking up work as a psychiatric nurse in Kent. It was there that she met her husband, Larry – they had five children.

The couple later moved to London, where Gloria worked as a community relations officer for Westminster Council. She set up the Flamboyan Carnival Arts project with Larry as a way to promote their longstanding commitment to carnival arts. Her “Mas Camp” band has been based in Paddington Basin since 1987.

Gloria, who had 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, offered placements for young people at the Paddington Development Trust.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck, who knew Gloria through her work on urban regeneration projects, said: “She looked after people on the fringes of the community, feeling a strong sense of responsibility and civic duty.

“She understood that it takes a village to raise a child. She was a very motherly figure and a pillar of the community.”

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