The title still had a further date to serve with the Wandsworth Civic Centre: it had been booked at the time of the previous contest there in late 2002. So, Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth returned in early November 2004. And through no fault of the venue’s management the problems came back to us. Street works caused a substantial traffic snarl up which affected the attendance. Also there was greater than usual interference by trouble-makers. They included a Basque who pretended to be an international photographer of repute and kept trying to get into the changing-room. In spite of being thrown out several times, he continued coming back in until the firm, formidable but fair stewards Alice and Robert gave him his marching orders. Later in the evening a rival promoter insinuated himself into the changing-room after the contest was over to sign entrants for his own under-subscribed show.
Once more the majority of promoters were generous in their support. Unfortunately, a designer – one of those figures whose popularity flare intensely for a short period and then he is heard no more – took exception to one of the designers participating in our accompanying fashion show. He threatened some of the contestants that if they took part in the contest he would forbid them from ever again wearing his dresses in public. Sadly, the ploy worked for three or four of them. Whatever fame the designer may have had crashed when he presented his own show several weeks later and ……. well, that is better left unstated.
The contest developed into a direct showdown between Shaherah Williams from Greenwich, south-east London and Alafair Celestine from Ealing, west London. Both were tall, beautiful Trinidadians recommended by Angela Cox, promoter of Miss Trinidad & Tobago UK, who thus went one better than her recommendation of the two runners-up earlier in the year. Shaherah won because her presentation was adapted better to the conditions. It was a finely-tuned performance. She kept her speech/answers short and to the point and took proper advantage of the lay-out. The contestants paraded through the audience, and then came on stage between the judges and the audience. Whereas her rival addressed the latter direct, thereby with her back to the panel, Shaherah positioned herself at half-angle so that she could speak to both simultaneously.
Abi Ventour, a Grendian, was third. As a contestant Jacqueline Matovu, the reigning Miss Uganda UK, made her first acquaintance with the title which she has since graced for a decade and a half, as participant again, recommending one winner, judge on another occasion, co-ordinator, talent scout for the accompanying entertainment, and so much more. Archbishop Dr Bancroft McCarthy declared the promotion open as he would do over the next eight years, and he introduced the United Christian Harmony Group gospel choir of predominantly senior citizens. The prelate and the choristers entertained the crowd with some unaccompanied singing until the disco booked for the evening arrived. It had been delayed in the traffic jam. Henceforward Dr McCarthy and the choir made the first section of the show their own.
Shaherah, who was born in London to Trinidadian parents but had been brought up in Los Angeles, had one of the strongest characters of any of the title-holders. Clayton had been warned that she was unmanageable. On the night of her victory Shaherah asked him: “What star sign are you?” “Libra” “Just like my father” she replied “People can push you around quite a bit but only up to a certain line and must never go beyond that line. I shall treat you just like my father”. It was the recipe for a very good winner-promoter relationship. Clayton summed up: “Shaherah really cared for the title. I cannot praise higher than that”.
Shaherah was received by John Austin MP at the House of Commons, and she integrated herself in community activity in Greenwich which had a twinning partnership with Tema in Ghana. Shaherah and her predecessor Natalie had contrasting characters but they were complementary and gave the title a double-boost. Here, too, Shaherah made the title a major presence at West Indian and African events in London. She was asked to address the launch of the Miss Ghana UK campaign at the Ghana High Commission, was guest at functions in the Jamaican High Commission, and with Alafair was guest at the inaugural Miss Malaika UK.
The title returned to the Rotterdam Summer Carnival for the first time in eight years. Although we were no longer official guests, the party was well representative of our traditions. It comprised Shaherah and Natalie, Clayton and Hopelyn, fourth-placed Brenda Gabriel, former contestant and present promoter Patsy White, and guest mature beauty queens Gillian Campbell and Ruby Palmer. Yes, twenty years after she had been our first deputy title-holder invited to the Utrecht Carnival, Ruby was back. There was a sad reminder of those earlier occasions with the news received on the eve of departure that Julian Patterson, who had done so much for the title in the Netherlands, had passed away. The itinerary included an excursion to Amsterdam where the party drank a toast to Julian’s memory. We travelled out/back on the new shipping route between Harwich and the Hook of Holland, meeting up on the way with the boat’s entertainment manager Richard Moon who had co-presented our shows on the St Nicholas.
The visit of Shaherah and Natalie to Ghana was every bit as significant in the history of the title as had been that of Hadda to Berlin. It was arranged by air stewardess Stella Tamakloe and hosted by the Ghana Tourist Board. Shaherah’s birthday occurred during the visit and was celebrated in an appropriate style. The hosts arranged a full schedule of appointments at cultural, historic and tourist landmarks which made a significant impression on our title-holders. The itinerary was so arranged that on the day after returning to London, Shaherah went straight to the World Travel Market at the Excel Centre in London where she was able to join in the publicity at the Ghana national stand.
A special Silver Jubilee Miss Caribbean & Commonwealth contest was held at the Polish Centre on April 2006. Although it maintained the traditions and format of the title, this promotion is not recognised as being in the “official” line because it was sponsored by a travel company who took over the activities of the winner thereby precluding her from undertaking the role of her predecessors. Nevertheless, the show itself was of the same high standard as we had come to expect. The winner was Kim Riley, who was of mixed Trinidadian/Irish heritage and recommended by Angela Cox, promoter of Miss Trinidad & Tobago UK. Esta Lumutenga, a Ugandan, was second. Ropa Garise, a Zimbabwean, came down from her home in Nottingham for the contest and returned the same evening. She came third. A couple of days later Ropa flew to Jamaica where she won Miss International which was then rated almost on a par with Miss World and Miss Universe. In doing so she beat several of the top African and Caribbean beauty queens from this country and abroad.