Harrogate Spring Flower Show: How Rio came to the Spa town, by way of the Caribbean

Kimberley Williams from Leeds wearing the first  Rio style carnival costume made from real flowers and foliage at the Harrogate Spring Flower show.
Kimberley Williams from Leeds wearing the first Rio style carnival costume made from real flowers and foliage at the Harrogate Spring Flower show.
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A CARNIVAL designer and a florist have teamed up to create a tribute to the Rio games, which will be the centrepiece at this week’s Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

The colourful creation is made of 1,400 fresh flowers, measures 12ft by 12ft and is thought to be the first carnival costume to be made of flowers and foliage.

It contains more than 30 metres of aluminium tubing and fibreglass rods, 16m2 of foam and hundreds of fresh flowers and pieces of plant material.

International carnival designer Hughbon Condor and award winning florist Helen James created the costume with the support of funding from Arts Council England and took 155 hours to complete.

The Carnival of Flowers costume will now go on display in Harrogate, where the Spring Flower Show opens tomorrow and runs until Sunday.

Mr Condor, who is carnival costume consultant at the Leeds West Indian Carnival, said: “Each costume is a feat of engineering because it needs to be strong enough to carry and display all of the 3D design elements, but light enough for a person to wear.

“This is a very special project because it is the first time a carnival costume has been made from fresh flowers. It presents the very exciting opportunity to combine the artistic influences of the Caribbean and South America with floral art, which is a completely new discipline for me.”

Mr Condor, who is based in Leeds, is an internationally-respected carnival costume designer with more than 40 years of experience.

In 2005 he was one of three artists from the UK to gain an Arts Fellowship in Trinidad and has taken part in events spanning the Caribbean, Asia and Africa, as well as the UK.

Ms James, who runs Helen James Flowers in Harrogate, has more than 30 years of experience. She has won several Best in Show awards at Harrogate Flower Shows and the British Florist Association’s Fleurex competition.

She is a silver medalist at Chelsea Flower Show and was Interflora’s North East Florist of the Year three years running, before becoming a national finalist in 2011.

She said: “Although I have created a number of fashion-inspired pieces in competition, Carnival of Flowers is a whole new dimension. The sheer scale of a design, the fact that it needs to be completed in just a few days to stay fresh for the show and that it needs to be both wearable and durable, poses some really thrilling challenges.

“In true Rio style we have chosen flowers in bright, vibrant colours such as lime green, orange, hot pinks, purple and yellow to replace what would normally be feathers. The flowers need to be big and bold enough to make a real impact on the larger elements of the design, but delicate enough to create the right detail for the necklace, cuffs and skirt.”

Vanda orchids, gerbera, craspedia, anthuriums, salix and palms are just some of the many hundreds of flowers and pieces of foliage to be used.

Harrogate Flower Show director Nick Smith commented: “We are famous for hosting a stunning display of floral art in what has become the biggest exhibition of its kind in Britain.

“The Carnival of Flowers project has presented the opportunity to bring a completely new and very topical concept to the show. It is truly spectacular and we hope our visitors enjoy admiring the tremendous talent and hard work of our artists.”

Alex Newman, partner at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds

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