There is a long tradition of carnival in this area dating back, allegedly, to Guy Fawkes’ gunpowder plot of 1605 to blow up Westminster Palace and the entire government in an attempt to overthrow the Protestant King and reinstate a Catholic monarchy. The burning of old unusable boats boats in Bridgewater symbolised the unsuccessful attempt and reinforced protestant power and was performed each November 5th for many years until they ran out of derelict boats and started on viable ones; a halt was called to the proceedings. The event now is not limited to its Bridgewater beginnings and encompasses 7 towns in 14 nights commencing in Bridgewater on the first Saturday in November and the finale in Glastonbury on the third Saturday. (There are other autumn carnivals around the county but we like this one best.)
The modern carnival reinterpretation of this event started in 1881. It has evolved over the years into the Somerset County Guy Fawkes carnival season. Local carnival clubs spend many thousands of hours throughout the year (and up to £40,000 funded by their supporters) building carts (never call them floats here) up to a maximum of 30 metres long. These largest carts have a tractor unit (literally a tractor in some cases) , a trailer and then a third unit containing the generator needed for the vast number of lights and moving parts. These units are decorated to whatever theme the club chooses quite often something topical, this year’s most moving cart for me was the one depicting scenes from the first world war. This tableau (where the human occupants dressed according to the theme, remain unmoving except for short relax breaks at designated points) headed the procession of more than 40 carts of varying sizes. Not all carts are tableaux, other categories include the ones that literally bounce up and down whilst the dancers perform a routine repetitively whilst the cart is moving … The decorations, if you can call them such a frivolous word, are works both of art and engineering – roundabouts, swings, moving “animals”, spinning stuff, moving side to side, up and down stuff. This year’s stand out engineering for me was the cart with the car whizzing round a track that ran a circuit built above all the other scenery where the performers were dancing. The performers costumes are spectacular too. I often worry about the performers getting cold, it was brass monkey weather last night, but of course each cart has thousands of light bulbs belting out heat that you miss once each cart has passed.
In amongst the carts are solo performers, dancing troupes and bands all well worth a good clap and a whoop!
This year K, The Smart One and I were among roughly a hundred thousand folk, including our weekend guests a couple of first timers, boogying, clapping and cheering kerbside , duly impressed by the 2 hour parade, and donating money for local charities. K and I, delighted to be back after an absence of several years, both thought this year’s entries were the best ever.
🙂 🙂 🙂
Photos from previous carnivals.