Shaftesbury’s Carnival has been voted the best in the Wessex Carnival circuit. It’s the first time that our town has taken the top award in the five years that judges have scored each procession.
Shaftesbury Carnival Co-Chairman Rich Mullins was presented with a certificate and a trophy during the ceremony at Haynes Motor Museum last night. He spoke with ThisIsAlfred.com.
Rich Mullins is in celebratory mood today. Shaftesbury Carnival certainly bounced back in style in 2018. It’s now officially the best on the Wessex Circuit. “There’s Sturminster Newton, Mere, Frome, Gillingham, Wincanton, Castle Cary, Salisbury, Trowbridge, Warminster and ourselves in the circuit. We were up against all of those carnivals when we were voted as the Best Carnival,” said Rich.
Last year, Shaftesbury Carnival set up a new, larger committee of 23 volunteers. The new structure was designed to bring in new blood and to make each member responsible for a specific area in order to get more things done and with greater efficiently. It was Rich’s first year as Co-Chairman, a role he shares with carnival stalwart Derek Beer.
Rich is delighted that the panel of judges from all of the area’s carnival clubs decided that Shaftesbury put on the best show. “I knew we’d done okay because we’ve had some really positive feedback. We had no idea we were going to win it, to be honest. This would have been decided at the end of last year. They’ve known about it for a while. They kept it a secret until the presentation,” said Rich.
So who voted? “There are over thirty members of the association,” explained Rich. “All the people that you saw performing in Shaftesbury got to vote on the best carnival. They all sat down at a group meeting and said, ‘Yeah. We like Shaftesbury’.”
Rich doesn’t know what impressed the judges, but the crowd reaction and atmosphere on the night will have made a difference to their experience. “We didn’t get detailed feedback, but the chap on the microphone, Dave, who is the judging conveyor for Wessex Circuit and one of the Vice Presidents did say that it was a well organised carnival and that they were really impressed with how the new committee were leading things,” said Rich. “And we have heard some feedback that we could show some of the larger carnivals a thing or two with our good committee and organisation. We’re out to help as many people as we can and offer advice to other carnivals if they require it.”
Rich said he was speechless when he heard that Shaftesbury had won. “I was completely overwhelmed because all that hard work, and people don’t quite realise the amount that I put in and everybody else on the committee puts in. It is literally blood sweat and tears a couple of weeks before Carnival, making sure everything’s in place. It was just an overwhelming reaction to get it. The President, Jenny Frank, was there as well last night and she was absolutely over the moon that we had won the award.”
Rich believes that a good carnival event is good for Shaftesbury, too. “I think it’s really good for the town. I think it shows that we’ve got a close-knit community that sticks together. And we put on a really good show, despite the current climate that we’re going through with people struggling financially and businesses in the town struggling,” he said. “It proves that people can come out and support the carnival. We do want to keep this town great. And hopefully we’ll get a nice day again this year, weather-wise and everyone will come out again and support it. I know that there’s a few clubs coming back this year that weren’t out last year, so we should see an even bigger turnout hopefully.”
There was success too for Shaftesbury’s Kipling Carnival Club, with their spectacular recreation of an Irish fishing village, which wowed the crowds. The impressive cart created by Matt and Steve Appleby and the Kipling team was named ‘Overall Champion’ in the Wessex Circuit. Their team took home ten additional awards for Best Music, Best Technical Achievement, Best Routine, Best Costumes, Best Dressed Driver, Best Artwork and Best Overall Performer.
“After a tough year and building a cart in six months, the whole club is chuffed with becoming Wessex Champions 2018 for the first time in 12 years! We’d like to thank all our members, sponsors and supporters for their continued support,” said Matt Appleby.
Rich is looking ahead to the 2019 event and he welcomes any interested residents to attend the Shaftesbury Carnival AGM at the end of the month. “It’s open to everybody. It’ll be held on Monday, the 28th of January, at 7.30pm at the Town Hall. Come along, listen to where the money is going, what money we’ve spent and find out what we are going to do this year. There’ll be the election of the new committee as well, so we have to decide on who’s going to stay. So it’s about putting the team in place again for this year for 2019,” said Rich.
Although you could argue that the current committee is doing a good job. “It is a winning team and it does seem to work really well. And we’ve seen that Wincanton Carnival, which didn’t happen last year, has followed our approach and they’ve got Co-Chairs this year as well. So it’s great to see that they’re realising that it is better to share the load of something like Chairman responsibility and get younger people involved. The key is getting the younger generation that are going to be here in the next thirty years to see the carnival through and carry on.”
Rich hopes to put the trophy and the certificate on public view. “It says that we’re the Members’ Choice of Best Carnival Procession. We’ve got a rather large trophy, which will be hopefully on display in the Town Hall. But I’ve got to find out where we can put it so the public can see it because we’d like everybody to have the opportunity to view it,” said Rich.