Carnival… It’s our one hobby that me, Bunny and the Jonnyter are truly passionate about. It’s something you can expect to see many posts about on my blog. So who better to tell you about it, than someone whose been
doing living it all their life…
….A guest post by my darling husband!
So the time of year is coming where I do everything in my power (much to the wife’s annoyance) to jump in the car and race down the motorway to stand in the freezing cold (and quite often torrential rain) and watch one of the greatest spectacles ever created in my beloved home county of Somerset.
Yes, the Somerset County Guy Fawkes Carnival Circuit is finally here. But just what the chuff is carnival I hear you cry!! Well I’m going to try and give you all a crash course in not only what carnival is but also why we put ourselves through it and how it all started.
How did it all begin?
The history of carnival can be traced back to 1605 in Bridgwater, Somerset; where people took to the streets to celebrate the spectacular failure of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. Back then as you can imagine things were very different, people would gather around a bonfire and generally have a good time. Nowadays clubs of gangs and features have been formed and produce 100ft long spectacular carts, which never cease to amaze. If you are interested in the full history of carnival then follow this link.
Ok, enough babbling, what the chuff is a carnival cart?
In a nutshell it is 2 trailers towed by a tractor or a lorry. 100ft long 17’6” high and 11ft wide.
As you can see the entire length is decorated using models and lit by thousands of light bulbs. The feature carts will also have large moving parts on the cart and the engineering is becoming more spectacular every year. We will then add very loud sound systems and cart personnel in fantastic costumes to entertain and deliver a performance worthy of any west end show! Within each parade there will also be tableaux carts on which there will be no moving parts or flashing lights and the personnel on board will stand perfectly still as though frozen in time. Single masqueraders also take part as walking entries and the fun element is not left out with several comic carts whose sole aim is to make the audience laugh! There is also a competitive element as in each class, every entry is competing to win the coveted Starkey Cup (THE county cup) as well as cups and awards at each of the 7 towns.
How did I get involved?
Carnival is very much a family affair, so seeing as my father, grandfather, aunties and uncles were all involved in carnival, it was pretty clear that I would be brought up in what has a become a
huge….no… massive…….no……..ESSENTIAL part of my life. You see that is the problem with carnival, it starts off as a hobby and then you grow to love it and then it becomes an obsession, so for the last 35 years it has been an obsession.
It’s thanks to carnival that I met my wife and it’s thanks to carnival that I have learnt many essential life skills. At just 4 months old I was on my first cart, the cart was called LOVE TRAIN by the Mendip Vale carnival club, now clearly I do not have a strong memory of this but im assured I was sitting on my uncles lap ringing a bell! In 1986 some friends of mine and my brother decided (coerced by my parents) to enter our hometown carnival of Wells in Somerset and also Glastonbury carnivals – as a walking entry. Entitled “The Lizard Men” we had varying success as “The Balch Rd Gang” and thus the legacy of the family was continued. The first cart I was on was called “Ole Flamenco” by the Mendip vale cc. I enjoyed a couple of years with the club before I moved clubs and settled into the Globe Carnival Club from Wells in 1996.
The bottom line of carnival
Each club will fundraise all year long and build their entry ready for November. Each of the towns strive to collect as much money as possible which is then passed on to local charities and groups. Prize money is awarded at each town aswel as cups and awards. All in all carnival is for charity with each member of each club giving their own time and dedication to their club in order to produce what has been billed as The Greatest Free Show On Earth. Yet if each person who watched a carnival gave just £1 then we would be raising over £500,000 every year!! Sadly in the real world we are raising only about a fifth of this. Rules and regulations are making carnival more and more expensive every year, yet despite this, every club and masquerade continues to wow and amaze judges and the public for those dark cold 7 nights in November for little more return than a smile on a childs face or if you are lucky enough, a trophy or 2 to display proudly in their headquarters.
So there you go, that is carnival. Sorry if I babbled on a bit but when you are as passionate as I am about carnival you could talk for hours and not get bored!
Enjoy the video below and if anyone wants any more information or how to donate then just get in touch.
If you want to treat your family to watching one of the most spectacular carnivals in the world, here are the dates and towns of this years carnivals on the North Somerset Circuit:
Bridgwater Saturday 3rd November 7pm
Weston – Super – Mare Friday 9th November
North Petherton Saturday 10th November
Burnham on Sea Monday 12th November
Shepton Mallet Wednesday 14th November
Wells Friday 16th November
Glastonbury Saturday 17th November
Mama and More aka Zaz says
How wonderful to read such a passionate post! (found you on Mummy’s Little Monkey’s fab Blow Your Own Blog Horn) What’s also quite cool is that wherever people are passionate about their particular carnival traditions, they just call it “carnival”, without prefacing it like “Sommerset Carnival” or “Trinidad Carnival”- it’s just the be-all and end-all. In Trinidad, where I’m from, our Carnival is one of the biggest in the world, and practically the entire country is pretty passionate about it too. Enjoy your festivities!
Mama and More aka Zaz recently posted..Time for take-off!
We have over 20 Carnivals here in Britain but it’s only the Somerset carnivals which are renowned for being the biggest illuminated carnivals in the world, with around 250000 spectators at each one. which is why we specified which group of carnivals we were talking about. In general when we are in Somerset or Dorset, we just refer to them as “carnival”. However a lot of people who dont live near a carnival, dont actually know what one is – hence this post explaining. I expect Trinidad carnivals are very different to ours. Ours are at night and light the sky up with bulbs. xx
Young Mummy says
I also love how everyone refers to it as carnival. I live on the Isle of Wight and Ryde carnival is the one that I have been involved in since I was about 2. The first carnival I remember is when I dressed as a blind mouse!
I love the carnival!
Difference between ours and yours however is ours are in August at the end of the summer holidays, so our Illuminated one is warm – our main procession is warm too, in the golden sunshine at tea time!
Young Mummy recently posted..Biscuits – Mostly Custard Creams
Kate on Thin Ice says
Love this post for its sense of history, family and charitable endeavour. the passion shines out.
Kate on Thin Ice recently posted..What are my reasons to be cheerful this week?
Liz Burton says
What a great post! And how very cool that you both met through this passion.
I’ve never been to a carnival like that, but I want to now.
Liz Burton recently posted..Magpie Monday – Christmas is coming!
Wow, this looks amazing! I have never heard of it but those lights look like something out of Disney World! (Is that a swear word as far as Carnivals are concerned?!) Thanks for linking up and sharing a very ‘alternative’ post to Oldies but Goodies 🙂
Suzanne recently posted..Oldies but Goodies – April 2013
Jaime Oliver says
I have never seen a carnival, but so wish I had, it looks amazing!
Jaime Oliver recently posted..Pregnancy & Birth Story – Joshua
Emma Day says
Schedule a trip down to Somerset at the beginning of November! The kids will love it! Take fold up chairs and wrap VERY warm though. Each one lasts 2-3 hours! xx