Shadow 'must be celebrated' for contribution to Caribbean Carnival

Arnold Davis known as Shadow as Britannia in a 50p piece in Liverpool Carnival (Image: Misie Goode)
-Credit: (Image: Misie Goode)


People have been asked to 'celebrate the legend that is Shadow' after 'shocking everyone' with his incredible costumes at Liverpool Caribbean Carnivals.

Arnold Davis, AkA Shadow was born in Trinidad before coming over to the UK. He was a great contributor to the Caribbean Carnivals of the 1970s and 80s, especially in Liverpool.

Michelle Peterkin-Walker of Akoma Arts is carrying out research to find out more about Shadow. The Shadow Research Project; Shadow Liverpool Caribbean Carnival, is part of her wider work in archiving events, particularly from Liverpool 8s Black community.

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Michelle told the ECHO: "Shadow is intricately tied to Liverpool Caribbean Carnival of the 1970s and 80s when it was really massive. That's when he really performed and showcased.

"People knew him as a performer, but we don't know much about the creative artist himself. His performance art was phenomenal and this project is to find out more details.

Arnold Davis known as Shadow as one of his depictions as the Hunchback of Notre Dame at Liverpool Carnival (Image: Val De Bique)
Arnold Davis known as Shadow as one of his depictions as the Hunchback of Notre Dame at Liverpool Carnival (Image: Val De Bique) -Credit:Val De Bique

"He was phenomenal for the carnival, we’ve not got any archive so we can't go and find all this information. The project is about us (the community) coming out with all our photographs, our stories and archiving them for the oral history process."

Michelle wants stories of Carnival when it was massive with Shadow as a starting point. She believes "if we don’t archive it and save it, it will be gone, as generations of people from the 1970s and 80s (who organised carnival) have already passed away".

She plans to get this information; categorise it, put it in the Film Office, Central Library and online so people can "celebrate the legend that is Shadow". Michelle said: "This project makes a major difference to the Black community and Liverpool's cultural heritage on the whole".

His great niece Misie said: "His stage name was Shadow but the family used to call him Uncle Sunny. Uncle Sunny always handmade his costumes namely the 50 pence piece, Abraham Lincoln and Tutankhamen.

"I remember when he visited us in Hatherley Street, he always made us laugh when we were kids. Uncle Sunny possibly came to Liverpool in late 60s to early 70s never left, and sadly passed away in early 2000s."

Jean Mullings, who photographed him, said: "He was well known, I knew him by sight. I remember seeing him at the carnival as the statue, it was absolutely amazing".

Arnold Davis known as Shadow depicting Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Liverpool Carnival (Image: Jean Mullings)
Arnold Davis known as Shadow depicting Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial in Liverpool Carnival (Image: Jean Mullings) -Credit:Jean Mullings

As a child I recall people asking ‘why was Shadow not at carnival this year?’ His costumes were always a closely kept secret. This statue seated on a float for maybe four hours went with the procession from the Caribbean Centre, around the city and back.

There were screams, women shouting ‘it moved, it stood up’. It was Shadow portrayed as Abraham Lincoln. It’s etched in my memory to know he sat still for so long which was just as amazing as the statue he made himself into.

Shadow also took his costumes to London, Manachester, Trinidad and more and won best costume many times. Michelle wants these memories captured in stories, pictures, flyers, posters, and memorabilia people can share with the Shadow Project.

Caribbean lunch club member, at Hector Peterson Court, Pam Grey said: "Shadow used to turn up in costumes and shock everybody, because nobody knew what he was going to be. He was fantastic, absolutely brilliant.

"I used to love watching the costumes, the changes, the way he invented all these things from history; Tutenkhamun, Jesus Christ, Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fifty pence piece was brilliant, Abraham Linclon, all kinds of historical figures that he portrayed and did it so well. It was unbelievable".

Michelle Peterkin-Walker of Akoma Arts based in Aspen Yard in Liverpool 8 the coordinator of the Shadow and Liverpool Carnival Project (Image: Patrick Graham Liverpool ECHO)
Michelle Peterkin-Walker of Akoma Arts based in Aspen Yard in Liverpool 8 the coordinator of the Shadow and Liverpool Carnival Project (Image: Patrick Graham Liverpool ECHO) -Credit:Patrick Graham Liverpool ECHO

Mel said: "We only know him as Shadow. He didn't tell anybody about it and when he came out we were surprised.

"He would be like a mannequin, doesn't move, laugh or breathe. You would be looking somewhere else and suddenly he would go ‘boo’ and everybody would be wow. When you saw him you had never seen anything like that before.

Shorty added: "I remember Shadow when he was a fifty pence. Since he died, the Carnival has not been the same, he was the highlight of the carnival.

"He was a very good man, manners and everything. You could joke with him and have a laugh".

Michelle continued: "I was scared of him when I was little, I must have been about five and saw him as the Hunchback, it was so good I was terrified of him.

"I saw the mummy and was made up. I got to see all those things; that big 50p piece everyone talks about".

Michelle does creative workshops and film projects; LADFN (Liverpool African Diasporic Film Network) created to raise the profile of African people’s culture and expose that in Liverpool. ‘Yore Lens on L8’ and Liverpool Black Archives Hub are projects she has also carried out.

She said: "Everything I've always done is documenting our community and our activities. It's always to do with our culture.

"In 1997 I graduated, that's when I started Sojourna Productions (later Akoma Arts) when I started doing videography and documenting things in our community. It was about giving a voice, giving a visual expression and recording to show our stuff that we do."

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