There will be some new developments at Shaftesbury Carnival this year. A new role has been created in the spirit of inclusivity. Alfred spoke with Co-Chairman Rich Mullins about the changes and met the town’s first-ever Carnival Prince.
11-year old Andrew Junior Snell knows that his name will be recorded in the story of Shaftesbury’s Carnival – a tradition that stretches back over 140 years. “I’ll go down in the history of Shaftesbury,” said Andrew, the Carnival’s first Prince.
A similarly big change took place across the Wiltshire border earlier this year, when Ansty’s Maypole event crowned its first May King.
Shaftesbury Carnival co-Chairman Rich Mullins says the committee wanted to move with the times. “We live in a multicultural society with lots of people doing different things and that’s what’s great about Carnival. We are probably the last Carnival to introduce the Prince, I would say. Gillingham and Frome have done it. We want to be inclusive of everyone,” said Rich.
Shaftesbury’s well-established carnival has traditionally appointed a ‘Royal Family’. “It dates back 92 years, when we had the first Shaftesbury Carnival Queen,” said Rich. “The Royal Family has always had a Queen. In years past we’ve had Page Boys and Princesses. This year, we’ve had a bit of a re-think due to people giving us some opinions.”
Hence Andrew’s appointment. “He was picked at the judging competition we had. He’s really pleased,” Rich continued.
“I just thought it would be quite fun to be the first Prince of Shaftesbury, so I thought, ‘let’s see if I get in’ and I actually became the Prince,” said Andrew. The Shaftesbury Primary School pupil is looking forward to his regal duties. “I’m mostly looking forward to being sat down on a float for a few hours, just waving with my hand. That is going to be completely tiring!” he said.
Andrew showed me his royal wave. It might need some work. It was more like a movement from the ‘Baby Shark’ dance. He’s happy with people looking at him, cheering and taking pictures. “Yeah, sure,” he said.
“Because we haven’t had the Prince before, we will be learning as we go along,” added Rich. “We want the Prince to be involved at all the events – giving out prizes at bingo. perhaps helping to sell the bingo tickets. Next year at the car show, I’ve got a vision for the Prince doing more. Andrew’s dad is part of the Southern Subaru group, so he will probably be involved. He can come to the presentation on Carnival night and give out the trophies to all the winning entries that we have,” said Rich.
There is another new role. “We’ve got a Junior Princess this year. My wife and her friend came up with the idea of this competition. Little girls want to be princesses. We wanted to give the children aged from five up to eight the chance to be a princess. This year the Junior Princess is Esme Blunn,” said Rich.
The Princess role continues, too. “It is Rowan Hann. The Queen is Lauren Merrick from Shaftesbury School. It’s nice to have someone that’s local. We always ask for local people but we don’t always get them.”
Rich says recruiting royals from within the Shaftesbury SP7 postcode area has not always been possible. “What we don’t want to do is rule anyone out if they are keen. It’s really important that we have someone in the post. We only had two queens come forward this year. We had a really good show for the Prince, Princess and Junior Princess, but the Queen doesn’t seem to be as popular as it used to be,” he said.
Rich accepts that being the centre of attention and in front of massive crowds isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. “You’ve got to be the right kind of person, who wants to get on the Princess float and be involved in the Carnival. It’s not everyone’s thing, but the people that want to do it, do it really well,” said Rich.
The royals will certainly have their work cut out for them. “Their role starts on the week before Carnival, at the tabletop sale. They get crowned there in the Town Hall or outside. They’ll reign for a whole year. They have events on Carnival week – the quiz, the bingo, the money mile and then Carnival day, which is the big thing.”
Rich says the girls will have a fairly early start. “They need to get their hair done and get themselves ready for the afternoon session, which leads off at three. We’ll go to the hospital, the care homes and see the elderly who can’t get out. They introduce themselves. It’s good for children and young adults. It’s also good for the care homes. They love it,” said Rich.
This year there will be a Carnival Gran, too. “Mary Martin used to do a lot of fundraising for a charity called Mary’s Wishes. She and Pauline Shoemark would raise money for people that had cancer, so they could go off and have their wish. She is really up for doing lots of things to help us this year.”
As Carnival approaches, ‘Prince’ Andrew’s friends haven’t said much about his new role. “I was just like, ‘Oh, cool’,” he said. But he will be dressing up for the occasion. “I’m going to be wearing a suit,” he offered.
Shaftesbury Carnival 2019 takes place on Saturday 28th September.