Jean-Pierre Poteon is one of those individuals on the London carnival scene I’ve seen around for years. He does all types of things in a fete or on the road (carrying on wotless as they say) and seems to know everyone and everyone knows JP. But I got the clear impression there was more to him than just one of those who catches the carnival fever at the back of the truck. And I was not wrong. For five years JP did the marketing for Poison TNT. He was part of Callaloo Company working with his mentor at the time Peter Minshall. He has known Machel Montano personally for a very long time and worked with him. I would be here quite a while listing his achievements. But here’s the thing. Most of his involvement in developing projects, carnival bands, fetes in the UK and in Trinidad is not known. And he seemed to like it this way. Until now. I wondered why he wanted to have a conversation.
Why did you want to do this interview? This is a new space for me, being interviewed, but I have been told that your vision needs to be spoken. Sometimes you have to speak your truth. A few key people said to me, ‘You’ve done a lot of stuff, people need to know what you do’. I was always of the mind, who knows, knows and who don’t, well… But now is the time. For the last two years, I have been developing a vision. That vision is called Axiom Creative Entertainment.
What is Axiom Creative Entertainment? It’s a two-phase event management company. We are going to produce events, do mas bands, we are going to do festivals. We will create and produce events. Full 100. And we will collaborate with like-minded people. For the past two years we have putting the financing together, putting together proper business teams. I have been meeting with people who seem to be interested and who feel that they can assist. The feedback has been very positive. The branch that our diaspora will know is called Frolic Nation. It will be involved in themed events, mas and festivals. It will be based in London and mainland Europe.
When you say ‘do mas bands’, do you mean create mas bands? Or work with mas bands? Create. Frolic Nation is passion. It is me. And the people I have put together have that strong passion and are excited by the theme itself. It is not about taking anyone out or competing with anyone. That’s not my mission. My mission is to sell a positive ethos to the world. I believe with all my heart that Caribbean culture can be a healing force for the world.
Why did you want to create Axiom? I’ve been involved in the entertainment industry for just under 20 years. I enjoy seeing people have a good time. I like to have a good time. I believe the Caribbean in its carnivals is the remedy to aches and pains. What do you think that remedy is to those aches and pains? It’s love! We’re the epitome of love. I have been there myself, transported into this world of freedom, abandonment and enjoyment within a safe environment. Carnival, our music. It’s freedom of the soul. And is that your passion? That’s me. I’m a free soul. I will wine on a speaker box and be very happy. And there are pictures out there that exist like that. It’s a reality. I don’t hide from it because I am transported by the music. I’m transported by the emotion.
Is that soca music? Well I mean it’s soca. But our Caribbean music is so rich. Zouk could hold me, bouyon could hold me just as much. Dancehall, bashment, I can dance to Kassav. Our music is beautiful.
How did you come up with the name Frolic? I am Frolic. Cause when I think of Frolic, I think of lambs frolicking through the grass. Well that is me too! [laughter] I can see me frolicking through the grass [laughter]. I was trying to think up of a theme for Abir for carnival and Frolic came to mind. I didn’t use it, but it stayed at the back of my mind and then this presented itself.
How is Axiom going to be different from other enterprises/companies out there? I have sat down, and I have done my research and I will continue to do my research as I believe you have to continue learning. You have to maintain a level of humility. Nothing is guaranteed in life. I have been successful, I have failed. I’ve been up and been down. I’ve walked quite a walk and it has been an interesting walk and it has defined me. I have coined a phrase called ‘Customer Centric Delivery’. It is basically ensuring that from the first experience at the event, whatever the event to the finish, the experience must make you feel ‘Yeah that was nice, I had a good time’. I’m not saying that other people aren’t doing it. But I have learnt, being an art director that details matter. I am a perfectionist as a designer. Everything must be correct. And when designing, every aspect has to be taken into consideration. I am now bringing that to the event space. And hopefully we can excite, we can engage and have a positive impact on this planet.
What are you trying to achieve? Spreading love all over the world. I know it sounds a bit cheesy and ethereal. But that is one of the aims.
How hard was it to get a team together? It continues to be difficult, but my team are mainly friends. People I have worked with in various capacities. People who have shown different types of skills. And I have sat down with all of them and asked them what they thought. And for me Axiom is also a vehicle for people to become themselves.
You have your hands in many different pockets… Well you need to know how many different pockets. Cause some might be perception, and some might be real. What are the real ones? I’m involved in the carnival band Abir. I used to be involved with Buspepper but now I am just a friend of the brand. I am a shareholder in Euphoria. I’m a shareholder of Tri Angels Entertainment.
And you’re an art director and producer? Yes. I worked with Island People. I think that’s where my love for creating and event management came from. I love the process; the lack of sleep, the coming up with ideas.
So, you have done a lot! Let’s get a number. What are the three things you are most proud of? That’s a good one. Alright. Proud. Glad I was there and glad the universe lined up and gave me this opportunity. First. I did my first album cover for our culture in Trinidad and Tobago when CDs was big. It was ‘Charge, Torro Torro’. 1998. Green album. Everyone knows the green album with the bull on it. And it was the first time a CD/album was done like the US presentation; with all the lyrics. I remember sitting down with Machel at the time and thinking we have a very interesting opportunity to use the cover and make a whole campaign out of it. At the time I was the senior art director in Corbinn Communications Advertising. The T-shirts, bandanas were new. So, I was glad I was part of that.
Second, I was one of the creative leads in ‘Real Unity’ the concert in 2000 which was at the time, the biggest concert, Trinidad had seen. It was 80000 people. It was a project and I was heavily involved in it. That transformed me, as at the time, my dad was having an operation which was risky. The show was Saturday. Monday was the operation. And I didn’t see him the Monday. And afterwards, we went to the hospital. I, dad and Machel were the only ones in the room. And that was touching. And at the end of the concert, he called me up to the front of the stage, thanking me for all the work I had put in.
Number three is a tricky one as it ss two events, but they had the same emotion. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don’t know if it is a good thing. When Abir sold out at 500 people? I remember one of our team Nick picked me up and we heading to ground zero (I always call the carnival route ground zero) and I was in the van and just broke down. I was overwhelmed that people took their money and bought a package, that 500 people thought that it was a good idea. I was totally humbled by that. In 2012. Crossing the stage with Euphoria. I went down on one knee and started to cry. Only Markee remember this. Cause I tried so hard to bring a section in carnival and it happened.
It is time to do my own thing. I’m excited and energised.
JP is a bit of a contradiction. His antics on the road would suggest that he wants the limelight. Far from it. He is a humble soul. When it comes to talking about and acknowledging his many achievements, JP likes the shadows. And this stepping into the light was for him a bit of a necessity rather than personal desire. With Frolic Nation, JP has the skills, passion and the experience to launch this new endeavour. Can’t wait to see what he accomplishes with this brand and Axiom Creative Entertainment!
All pictures with this article were used with the authorization of JP Poteon. Photography by Chris Boothman, Mark Lyndersay and David Wears.