Shaftesbury’s Carnival Committee members hope to continue their 2018 successes this year and the group is planning to put fun at the heart of their fundraising.
ThisIsAlfred heard about their plans at Monday’s AGM. Keri Jones discovered how the Carnival’s grants will make a difference to Motcombe schoolchildren and some less well off members of our community.
Most Annual General Meetings are about paperwork and procedure. The Carnival Club’s AGM was different. There was a palpable buzz in the packed Town Hall chamber. The free beer and pizza helped. But when I chatted with some of the committee, I quickly got a sense of their strength of passion for Carnival.
“To see the procession going through the winding streets of our hilltop town and suddenly the whole sky is alight. You cannot help being absolutely mesmerised by it. It is a magic thing. It really is,” Jenny Franks said, after being re-elected as Shaftesbury Carnival President.
Carnival has played an important part in Jenny’s life. “I’ve been involved in Carnival since I was knee high to a grasshopper,” she said. “I come from East Devon and I was brought up on East Devon carnivals. When I married and came up here, it was in time for the centenary and I got involved in that. And really, I’ve never looked back.”
Jenny was once the President of Mampitts Carnival Club. “Mampitts Primary School wanted money for a cover for their swimming pool. At the time I said, ‘Well, if you want some money, you’ve got to put a float in’. Mampitts was going for ten years or so. I know what it is like to make a carnival float and to go out on the road with it. That’s where my children got the bug because they were always on that float,” Jenny said.
“I’ve been in Carnival for well over forty years. I’ve got grandchildren now that are involved in Carnival. I was asked to be president, which was a great honour.” Jenny added. And what a great year to hold that position of office! In 2018, the ‘can do’ mind-set of this enthused group of locals really put our small town on the map. Shaftesbury Carnival was voted the best in our part of the West. “We’ve had a fabulous year. The fact that we won the Wessex Trophy for being the Best Carnival on the Wessex Circuit was absolutely amazing,” Jenny said.
Many of the successes of the 2018 season were down to the new committee structure. “We’ve got over 27 members on our committee and we are the envy of really every committee, not only here but up on the Somerset circuit as well. We have the help of so many organisations in the town,” Jenny said.
Rich Mullins’ influence shouldn’t be underestimated. Rich was appointed Co-Chairman, serving alongside Carnival stalwart, Derek Beer, last year. Unsurprisingly both men were unanimously re-elected at the AGM. Rich has clear goals for 2019. “We’re going to try to win the Wessex Trophy again. We’re going to try and keep it from Gillingham, because they want to grab it from us. We’re going to try and put on a really good show this year but we need to support of the public,” he said.
Rich smiled as he issued his challenge to Mary Bailey, Chairman of Gillingham Carnival. Earlier on, she’d bravely told the room that she had her eye on that silverware, which was proudly displayed on a table in the Town Hall. Mary did make her comment in a good-humoured way and it was well received. “We work really closely with Gillingham Carnival. We always have and always will do. They help us. We help them. We’re not going to help them win the trophy, though,” Rich laughed.
The team on the top table rattled through the formalities. Tracy Moxham will continue as Secretary. Tina Parsons will keep hold of the purse string assisted by Sharon Horsman. Antony Streets remains Processions Secretary and Lisa Mullins and Lucy Oram will look after the ‘Royals’.
A new Vice Chairman was clapped into office. Shaftesbury businessman, Mark Horsman, told ThisIsAlfred that it has been fascinating to glimpse behind-the-scenes of this well-organised event over the past year. “It’s amazing how much effort goes into the Carnival. You don’t realise when you’re stood on the side the road,” Mark said. “You don’t know what’s involved. I was guilty of that. I stood back and let it go on. It’s a lot of hard work.”
Mark said they he wanted to volunteer for an increased role within Carnival. “It’s my way of putting something back into the town. I’m a Shaftesbury boy and a Shaftesbury man and I’ve always watched the Carnival. Having a business in the town, it’s something I needed to do, along with my wife, to help,” he said.
Throughout the evening, people were recognised for their efforts. Co-Chairman Derek Beer reeled off the names of helpers who had undertaken important work, individually and as a team. “I’m just really proud that everybody who’s involved with Shaftesbury Carnival is a ‘do-er’. We don’t use the word ‘you’ we use the word ‘we’. It’s about teamwork, pulling together, helping one another and doing it cheerfully,” said Derek. “I think this must be one of the few AGMs in the land that’s cheerful. Everyone’s buzzing, getting on, networking and working out what they are going to do next year. It’s brilliant. And I’m well proud.”
Derek asked Gloria Hunt to come forward for an award of a clock. “It was most surprising because I don’t feel I do anything out of the ordinary,” Gloria said modestly. Derek’s speech praised Gloria’s continued efforts, despite her recent health issues. “Last year was hard work for me. I was waiting for a knee replacement, which I had done, so now I’m fit, ready and raring to go for this year,” Gloria said.
The size of Gloria’s contribution was evident when she explained the extent of her catering duties. “I do the catering for Carnival Day, which feeds all the judges, marshals, police, fire brigade, St Johns ambulance. They are fed from 11 o’clock in the morning till 10 o’clock at night,” she said.
Gloria is famous for her rocky road cakes. “Well, they seem to enjoy them. It’s always ‘have you got some?’ and then when they go out, I have to hide some ready for when they come back. I also help coordinate the bingo, although I do have help,” Gloria casually mentioned.
The bingo is important. It brings in over a £1,000 each year. “The bingo is one of our main incomes,” said Gloria. “But without the support of the town, we couldn’t bring in the money. We put out begging letters in every shop, cafe and pub. We get a good response from 99% of the town.”
And that support includes our town’s emergency services. “The police here are marvellous. On the day they have specials and PCSOs, who work very much with us. They have one of our radios, so if we’ve got any problems, they’re on hand immediately to help us and I’m very grateful,” said Jenny, who was also full of praise for Shaftesbury’s firefighters. “They’ve always led the procession and to have them out there collecting is great. People will put money in a fireman’s bucket, especially the children, when the engine flashes its lights and plays its two-tone,” said Jenny.
“They lead the event, they’re there to help us and support,” added Derek. “I know the Fire Service is really anxious to get involved with communities. These are good people. And it’s great to have them on board.”
Toby Whiteford will continue to manage logistics. “Basically, I look after the road signs, the diversions and all of the physical elements that happen during the weekend,” said Toby. “There are a lot of elements to it and it actually goes on a few weeks before as well. I put out the advanced closure signs and all the advertising boards around town as well,” said Toby.
And he’s looking to borrow a vehicle. “A flatbed van,” Toby said. “A couple of years ago, we used the trailer. Last year we hired one, which was great, but it’s money that we aren’t giving to beneficiaries. If we could get a donation from someone in town or a company, that gives us more money to give to charitable causes.”
And it’s all about the money. Mark is keen to increase the fundraising drive so there is more cash to share with Shaftesbury’s good causes. Sadly, the bad weather brought the cancellation of the classic car show last year and that meant the committee generated £1,200 less than expected.
The new Vice Chairman has lots of ideas, though. “One thing we will be doing this year is bringing in new events to raise money. We want to do a golf day at Rushmore Golf Club, where I play. There are lots of golfers in the town. We could get a charity day there, raising money,” said Mark. “We’d like to see more kids’ events in the town. We’d like to try and raise a football tournament for the children to get involved in the Football Club. It’s ways to bring money into the event itself, because it’s so needed.”
During the AGM, grant recipients were invited to collect their cheques. Rich had arranged for his employer, Wessex Water, to add £50 to the donations. Christine Peterson is the treasurer of Motcombe School PTA. “We’re very fortunate recipients of £800 pounds, which is a great boost to our funds,” Christine said.
The PTA had to work hard for their money. Last year the Carnival Committee asked grant beneficiaries to take a more active role. “We’ve been along to several meetings before the Carnival and we’re involved in a lot of the activities during Carnival week, such as the band concert. I don’t know how many cups and saucers we washed up on that afternoon!” said Christine. “We took part in the Carnival itself. We’ve had a really great time being involved and we’re very grateful for the money that we’ve received.”
Long-time Carnival supporter, Ray Humphries, presented a cheque to Shaftesbury charity, Hope. Then Read Easy received money to help the local people with literacy skills. An estimated 7% of the population can’t read, we were told.
Father’s House volunteer, Alan Kirkham, collected his grant award. Alan explained how the Carnival money will make a difference to Shaftesbury residents who are facing challenges. “10 o’clock, every Tuesday, people can come in. A member of the welcome team takes their details and asks how we can help. Maybe they’re going through a difficult patch financially and they’re in desperate need for a food parcel. We’re the local agents for the Gillingham Food Bank, so we allocate out food parcels,” said Alan.
The group also have non-food emergency aid packs for people that need help and they can source household items. “If people are having problems, claiming their benefits or housing benefits, we’ve got trained volunteers that can advise,” said Alan. “If they’re looking for a job, we can help them with writing the CV or with job applications. Sometimes they’re trying to deal with bureaucracy and need to be online. One guy was on universal credit. He needed to provide evidence to get a reduction in his council tax. It had to be in writing. But universal credit is online. We had to help him use a tablet.”
Alan says some of the cash granted will go towards staffing and training. “We have a part-time administrator who we have to pay for. And although our volunteers are unpaid, our housing and benefits advisors do need to go to London for a training course provided by Shelter, because it’s a specialised training.”
The £250 Carnival and Wessex Water donation will help fund the annual running costs of this service, which are much higher. “It costs us about £11,000 pounds a year just to keep going. But we’re very grateful to Father’s House Community Church because they provide all the accommodation for us, free of charge,” said Alan.
As I left a room full of laughter and excited conversations, I asked Rich about the highly-prized Wessex Circuit trophy. Soon, all residents will have a chance to view it. “We’re going to display it at the Tourist Information Centre for, hopefully, about two months. And we’re going to put it in Box of Allsorts. It’ll be at both ends of town, for everyone to go and have a look and understand a little bit more,” said Rich.
With such an organised and committed team, there’s a chance that this trophy could remain in Mark and Sharon’s shop window for years to come!